Navigating Jumpsuits and Playsuits: Finding a Style That Flatters You

Over the summer, playsuits have emerged as one of the hottest trends of the season, yet are notoriously hard to style. Learn to navigate the world of onesies with panache and these few styling tips!

My husband has this thing about playsuits; he hates them. For whatever reason, simply watching a passerby walk down the street wearing a one-piece jumpsuit or playsuit is quite often enough to push him over the edge of reason. “Look at that” he’ll say, “that is a terrible outfit.” Quite often, I agree with him, although most likely not for the reasons that he thinks I do.

On any given day where we might be out and about people watching, there are just as many jumpsuits and playsuits that walk by us that don’t draw his eye (or his wrath). So what gives?

After some consideration, I came to a realization. The one-piece looks that my hubby was reacting so negatively to were not necessarily bad looks, nor were the people who wore them inappropriately dressed. These poor, unsuspecting fashionistas were simply victims of poor fit, cheap fabric, and inappropriate styling. All three of these things are avoidable (although common) pitfalls of this difficult one-piece garment.

Want to give a jumpsuit or playsuit a try but are afraid you’ll fall into the same trap? Here are some bulletproof methods for avoiding these pitfalls, and honing a few of your styling skills along the way.

Invest in Quality Fit and Fabric


Everything that you know about fabric quality takes on extra importance when you are looking to invest in a jumpsuit or playsuit. Fabric that is too sheer, that puckers at the seams, or that wrinkles or bunches up should be avoided at all costs. If you are trying on a one-piece garment in the shop, it is important to see how it will fit you when you are sitting, bending over, or just otherwise going about your daily business. It is often even a good idea to size-up in order to give yourself plenty of room in the torso area – especially if you are tall or long-waisted.

Fabric that skims the body rather than sticks to it is ideal: Silks, silk jersey, and heavier polyester blends can look really luxurious if they are carefully constructed and finished. But, however louche and perfectly draped your playsuit might be, make sure that you have an element to it that defines the waist. Whether it is a built-in drawstring or a braided leather skinny belt, defining the waist is the key to not losing your silhouette in a sea of soft, flowing fabric, no matter how luxurious it may be.

Create a Harmonious Top-Bottom Balance


Those of us who love to experiment with fashion are constantly battering the term “balance” around in our discussions of emerging trends, and the playsuit is a prime example of where balance is key. Even though a playsuit is a one-piece garment, the old rules you are probably already familiar with still apply.

If you have a playsuit that shows a lot of leg, keep the top more demure and covered. Conversely, if your jumpsuit has a thin spaghetti strap or halter neck top, you should go with a wide leg or full harem trouser on the bottom. By deciding which part of your body you would like to focus on, you will be able to avoid a lot of very common pitfalls.

Short playsuits that are paired with spaghetti strap tops often look like vintage swimwear, and are usually too casual for most environments other than the beach. Long-sleeved jumpsuits with full trouser legs can look a bit like a pair of coveralls, and can be quite heavy both visually and in actual weight.

Keep the Color and Print Sophisticated


As tempting as it might be to lose yourself in a sea of pastel floral playsuits for spring and summer, this is one time where less is more. Because playsuits and jumpsuits are so reminiscent of the garments of our childhoods, bright colors or twee patterns put you at risk of looking (or looking like you are trying to look) like an overgrown child.

If you absolutely must have that light pink floral jumpsuit, make sure to temper it a bit by layering a tough motorcycle vest over the top, pairing it with a pair of chunkier heels, or accessorizing with modern, edgy pieces.

Playsuits and jumpsuits appear to be here for at least another fashion cycle, much to my husband’s disappointment. However, what he doesn’t realize is that with a little styling savvy, there are actually a lot more of these onesies out there than he realizes; all of them styled to perfection and walking the streets with confidence. Who knows?

By following these few simple guidelines, perhaps you could be one of them. I certainly intend to join the jumpsuit ranks this fall, just don’t tell my husband. If I get it right, he probably won’t even notice.

About the author

Kristin Buchholz-MacKillop

Kristin is an American writer based in the Scottish Highlands. She is a saxophonist, an obsessive tennis player, a U.S. Air Force Veteran, and holds a Master's degree as an Acute Care Nurse Practitioner. She is the author of the online style blog

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