Break the Rules, Not the Bank: How to Style a Jumpsuit

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Art Credit: Susan Pittard

Come mid-July, nothing I wear feels comfortable. It’s that sweltering span of summer when walking out my door and into the unforgivingly humid world turns getting dressed in the morning from a creative couple of minutes into instinctual, animalistic survival mode.

When the sun kicks in, the best clothing option is whatever’s simplest—and throwing on an easy one-piece jumpsuit is just that.

In the same vein of turbans, red lipstick, harem pants, high-waisted bikinis, and other contested trends, a jumpsuit is polarizing—you’re either with it or really, really against it. It draws a sartorial line in the sand, with no room for middle ground. But speaking as a heat-stricken, AC-deprived New Yorker, I am resoundingly in its favor.

There’s been a huge swell in jumpsuits available this season—of all shapes, cuts, and patterns—many of them now going on sale, and actually useful for adaptation through the fall. Regardless of the season, my favorite has always been the simple, solid black. With a humble black onesie, the possibilities for summer wear are as easy as they are endless.

CLASSIC //

classic

When going out at night—to an event, a hot date, or a local haunt with the girls—humidity reigns. Five steps out the front door, and I’m the bride of Frankenstein: My makeup sweats off, my hair frizzes in directions never thought humanly possible, and the dress I’ve zipped myself into is already sticking. A black jumpsuit has long been my quick fix, and it won’t be the typical tight tops and sequined dresses out on the scene. Its sleek, classic simplicity will have you standing out from the pack.

After twisting up my hair and applying minimal makeup (mostly just a matte lipstick since hot weather doesn’t tend to affect it), I paired the jumpsuit with a simple set of black Zara stilettos, a belt that highlights a feminine waistline and adds character with its metal detail (pictured: black elastic with gold fastenings from Urban Outfitters). Don’t forget a black leather jacket (mine’s faux, and no one can ever tell!) in case cooler weather sets in.

CUTE //

cute

Perfect for afternoon excursions and coffee shop hangs, the black jumpsuit can be an awesome blank palate for more versatile styling. Above, I wore wooden ankle clogs bought on sale at Madewell, a summer kimono from a Virginia vintage shop, and a headscarf of a painting by Gustav Klimt I bought at the National Gallery of Art’s gift shop.

Mixing black and brown colors is a traditional no-no, but I love to do it. By pretending the black isn’t even there and dressing myself around it, I tied in the brown clogs with the brown branch details in my kimono. Being comfortable and confident in what you wear is tantamount to any preordained rules about what we can and can’t do.

CORPORATE //

corporate

Because my jumpsuit actually has a circular cutout in the back, it’d be easy to dismiss it as inappropriate office attire. But wearing it in a corporate setting simply takes a bit more imagination and planning. Depending on the air temperature at your job and the lightness of blazers or jackets you could pair it with, you can easily create a professional, clean appearance.

Above, I paired my thin polka dot blazer with blue suede pumps scored off of Anthropologie.com’s sale section—conservative but with enough of my personal character that I can maintain my individuality, rather than feeling like an anonymous face in a sea of employees.

CASUAL // 

casual

In every boutique in my NYC neighborhood, jean vests are insanely over priced. They’re incredibly versatile—perfect for the daily grind of errands, bumming around on the weekend, and excursions in the park—so coughing up money for one gets tempting. But after a recent trip to my parents’ home in Virginia, I found my old Aeropostale jean jacket from back when buying things from Aeropostale was, you know, the cool thing to do. I wore it once and never used it again.

In under three minutes I snipped off the sleeves and covered up the store’s embroidered logo with one of my favorite vintage pins. We all have once-trendy clothes from back in the day collecting dust, and if we don’t donate them, repurposing them can also be a satisfying, savvy alternative.

Every season throws its climate curveballs, and while dressing around the outdoors is fun, it’s also something you don’t want to spend tons of time and money on. When I brave that July and August heat (and want to keep both my sanity and wallet in tact), having a simple, comfortable piece like this jumpsuit to reach for again and again makes all the difference.

Photography by Susan Pittard