A Brief History of Bodysuits - TUXE

A Brief History of Bodysuits

From active wear to high fashion, the bodysuit as we know it today has taken a long and interesting journey.

1850’s – Like they say in the song, “Let’s start at the very beginning, a very good place to start.” Before there were bodysuits, there was the leotard. Similar to the bodysuit, the leotard was a one piece outfit with a connecting bottom and top. However, the major difference between the two is actually the leotard’s lack of a clasp, snap or hook closure. The leotard was popularized by Jules Léotard, a revolutionary French trapeze artist. Little did he know, but his choice of outfit would be worn by every 12-year-old gymnastics student for the next 150 years.

1910’s – Voulez vous coucher avec moi ce soir. The leotard hits the big stage and the bright lights of Broadway! Showgirls and professional dancers alike were donning this daring new look.

1920’s – Have you ever seen those comically over-the-top bathing suits from the early 1900’s? Well, the bodysuit put an end to that. By inspiring a new line of “scandalous” new bathing suits, beach babes everywhere were finally able to strut their stuff without having to worry about wearing a petticoat in 100 degree weather.

1950’s - American fashion designer, Claire McCardell, made sportswear popular for everyday attire with her line of functional and affordable pieces. One of her favorite silhouettes was the leotard. 


1960’s - This was the birth of the bodyshirt; a garment very similar to the modern day body suit. Popular with both women and men (yes, men), this new fad took the fashion world by storm all the way through the 1970’s. It was the first time the bodysuit was actually worn in day-to-day fashion. After awhile, this trend lost momentum, and the bodysuit as we know it today wouldn’t make another appearance until the mid-1980’s.

1970’s & 80’s – We can dance if we want to! Nothing says the 80’s like a lil’ Go Go’s and some leopard print scrunchies. During this time, it was nearly impossible to walk past an aerobics class without seeing a minimum of 10 neon-colored leotards.  

1985 – The bodysuit makes its first debut in the world of fashion. Thanks to designers like Donna Karan, the bodysuit became a staple in everyday wear. She introduced the concept of “Seven Easy Pieces”; a wardrobe sporting a simple but elegant look, centered around the bodysuit. She proposed that, through layering classic pieces, one could achieve that ideal professional look.

2000’s – The 'Mancession' left many women moving back into the work force and becoming breadwinners, pushing the accent on fashion back toward a more professional, polished trend.

2008 – If you liked it then you better put a ring on it. Beyonce drops the instant hit, “Single Ladies”. In the music video, this booty-shakin’ babe sports only one outfit in a single shot performance. Alongside Madonna’s cone bra and Michael’s single sparkly glove, this bodysuit will go down in music history.

2010 - AMC television series 'Mad Men' took the fashion world by storm, sweeping in a trend for high-waisted, nipped in and tailored looks – once again making bodysuits a necessity. Whether you’re a Peggy or a Joan, we all can agree these ladies looked classy as hell.

Today - A rose by any other name would smell as sweet. Well, this rose sure has a hell of a lot of names. Leotards, jumpers, rompers, onesies, one pieces, singlets, bodyshirts, bodysuits. Whatever you want to call it, it’s been around for a long time, and it’s not going anywhere any time soon.

Perhaps to you, bodysuits bring back memories of Miss Olivia Newton John. Or possibly you bravely donned your own leotard-like style back in the early 90’s. Either way, the bodysuit is back, and it’s not only changed the rules, it’s changed the game.