The Body Suit: Symbol of Female Strength

An iconic piece of clothing associated with pop culture icons such as the Playboy Bunnies and Wonder Woman,

the bodysuit remains a staple piece of many women’s wardrobes.

History of the Bodysuit

The bodysuit is generally thought to be an evolution of the leotard, created by a Parisian trapeze artist named Jules Leotard. The leotard has been the primary piece of attire for ballet dancers since the early 20th century, allowing for greater ease of movement. In addition to ballet, it is also often worn by gymnasts. Both gymnastics and ballet require a certain amount of grace and performance, and the smooth lines of the leotard exhibited this perfectly.

The leotard slowly made its way from athletics to everyday wear over time. In the 1940s, designers such as Claire McCardell and Mildred Orrick began creating versions of the leotard that could be easily paired with separates. 

The Rise of the Bodysuit

The bodysuit really hit its stride in the 1970s as athleisure became more popular. Women could be seen sporting bodysuits in bright colors and bold embellishments. It was, however, more than just a statement piece.  In 1985, Donna Karen launched a collection based on “Seven Easy Pieces” that were meant to be easily interchangeable pieces a woman could wear for day or night. The bodysuit was included as a base layer.  It was this collection that launched Donna Karen into fashion fame.

The bodysuit has weaved its way in and out of fashion since then and has recently come back en vogue, led by American Apparel but being embraced by designers and retailers far and wide, including Versace, Jeremy Scott, and Marine Serre.

Pop Culture and Politics

The bodysuit has been embraced across pop culture over time. In addition to the Playboy Bunnies and Wonder Woman, bodysuits have been seen on Britney Spears in the “Oops, I Did it Again” music video and on Catwoman in the ’40s. The cultural associations of the bodysuit have given rise to feelings of women empowerment and defiance of gender norms.  At its finest, the bodysuit is a symbol of female capability – able to stand the test of time.