The do’s and don’ts of choosing and wearing a jumpsuit

Street Style Day 3 - Milan Fashion Week Menswear
Evangelie Smyrniotaki is wearing a Peter Jensen jumpsuit ,Louis Vuitton belt bag Linda Farrow sunglasses after the Fendi show on the streets of Milan on June 23, 2014 in Milan, Italy. Timur Emek/Getty Images

TORONTO – It was a staple of ’70s and ’80s fashion, but the recent revival of the jumpsuit has cemented the stylish staying power of the all-in-one look.

“I’ve never worn them before and now I’m totally sold,” said Canadian Living fashion and beauty director Julia McEwen, who has added four jumpsuits to her wardrobe. “It’s like a dress in the same way that it’s one-piece dressing. If you want to style it and add elements, go for it. But you don’t have to. It looks fabulous just the way it is.”

Pop star Rihanna, model Chrissy Teigen and actress Jennifer Garner are among the notable names who’ve recently stepped out in one-piece getups.

“They look chic, and when done right, (it) doesn’t look out of place, but rather stands out among cocktail dresses,” noted Sharon Ng Hayes of The Backseat Stylers, a Toronto-based fashion and style blog.

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Ready to master the one-piece? Some expert style tips.

Ensure you have the proper fit.

Alison Michelle, founder and lead stylist at King & Fox, a Toronto-based styling firm, said while the jumpsuit may be intimidating, she believes it’s “one of the most flattering pieces you can own.”

“A jumpsuit 99 per cent of the time will highlight the waist – like a belt at the waist – which is something that’s super-flattering on all body types, whether you want to create curves or hide certain body parts.

Michelle said a good starter jumpsuit is a halter or tank top style that’s fitted at the waist with a slightly wider leg in a solid dark colour.

“It’s the flexibility of it – the same as a little black dress.”

Model Franzi Mueller walks the runway at the Minx by Eva Lutz show during the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Spring/Summer 2015 at Erika Hess Eisstadion on July 9, 2014 in Berlin, Germany.
Model Franzi Mueller walks the runway at the Minx by Eva Lutz show during the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Spring/Summer 2015 at Erika Hess Eisstadion on July 9, 2014 in Berlin, Germany. Peter Michael Dills/Getty Images for Minx by Eva Lutz

Regardless of your height, Michelle said pant length is key.

“There’s nothing for me that I find more unflattering than seeing someone in a full-length jumpsuit – especially in a wider leg -that’s not hitting the floor with the shoes,” she said.

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“You need to understand that you’re going to buy one that you’re going to wear with flats or with heels. It’s not going to be both 99 per cent of the time.”

For petite women, McEwen favours a jumpsuit with an elasticized bottom.

“You can kind pull it up and style it however you want to – I think that’s very flattering. It’s never good when it pools around your ankles. If that’s the case, just like a pair of pants you’re going to want to get it tailored.”

Taller women should seek out versions that are cropped at the ankle or slightly longer, she suggested.

Make sure you can comfortably dress and undress.

Unlike unzipping a pair of pants or hiking up a skirt when visiting the restroom, donning a jumpsuit requires the wearer to completely remove the outfit.

“I didn’t even realize that until this year when I first got one. (I thought): ‘Oh, this is kind of awkward, I’m at work and I’m shirtless,”‘ McEwen said.

“I don’t know. I mean, that’s just something you have to get down with,” she added with a laugh.

Ng Hayes has been hooked on jumpsuits since buying her first one last year – a black lace sleeveless design. With her newfound style obsession, she’s come to accept the added challenge that can come with wearing a one-piece.

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“Every time I wear a jumpsuit, I joke about the difficulties of using the restroom, but I find them just so much fun to wear that I think it’s worth the complication.”

McEwen said selecting a model that isn’t too fitted is key: “If it is more fitted, you want to make sure you have more of a structured material because I find that it can cling in weird areas.”

She also recommends doing a sit test to ensure it doesn’t look sloppy while seated, with extra material pooling in the middle.

Select a colour and pattern close to your comfort zone.

Michelle acknowledged that the jumpsuit is “a lot of look” and that some be reticent to wear a very loud print or bold hue.

“If you’re going to go with a pattern, (go with one that is) maybe more subdued, or kind of a paisley, or do it in navy or creams instead of the bright colours.”

If wearing all one colour is too much, consider adding a piece to break up the ensemble like teaming it with a sleeveless blazer or vest, McEwen suggested.

Street Style - London Collections: Men SS15
Fashion Blogger and Stylist Magda Wieclaw wears Ebay shoes, jacket and bag and Primark jumpsuit on day 3 of London Collections: Men on June 17, 2014 in London, England. Kirstin Sinclair/Getty Images

Consider a menswear-inspired style.

McEwen said jumpsuits can easily veer towards mechanic or housepainter territory, but she likes styles that give a nod to menswear, like a Stella McCartney creation recently worn by Cameron Diaz.

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Cameron Diaz Sex Tape
Actress Cameron Diaz, wearing a Stella McCartney jumpsuit, attends the premiere of ‘Sex Tape’ at Regency Village Theatre on July 10, 2014 in Westwood, California. Jason Merritt/Getty Images

“It had long sleeves, it was buttoned up, but I loved the material it was in. It was in that beautiful, nice, drapy, soft, flowy silk,” she recalled. “Jumpsuits are already playful so when you add that playful print like polka dot it also feminizes it.”

Ng Hayes said tuxedo jumpsuits are a chic alternative to cocktail dress with styles that can lean towards ultra-feminine with deep V-necks and plunging necklines.