While the boilersuit has been burning in the background for some seasons now, spring/summer 19 sees it reach boiling point. The style bears a particular resemblance to the much loved jumpsuit yet the boilersuit’s industrial roots solidifies it as its harder working relative. Redefined this season as a statement, the humble overall first came to prominence for its practicality, and not for sartorial stature. It was once synonymous as the workwear uniform.
While it has a somewhat convoluted history, the overalls took on a resurgence in the 70s, where the all-in-one advanced from function to fashion. The Queen may have sported one while working as an army mechanic during the war, yet the boilersuit’s androgynous nature rendered it a feminist statement for some and a mainstay on the 70s disco circuit for others. ABBA were particular fans of the interchangeable boilersuit and the style was both at once glamorous and viewed as a punk statement. The trend continued into the 80s where its popularity burgeoned and the item featured in its fair share of movie moments from Top Gun and the iconic Ghostbusters.
This season however has solidified the structured onesie as a sartorial staple once again. And, freelance fashion stylist Kendal May Boyle is fond of the boilersuit’s adaptability. “Boilersuits have long been a classic on Isabel Marant’s runway and defusion line Etoile which cater to a completely different woman, proving it can be a diverse wardrobe staple,” she says.
The style featured in abundance on the spring/summer 19 catwalks, from utilitarian chic at Zimmermann, where a buckled beige, capped sleeve boilersuit cascaded down the runway oozing ultimate cool-girl vibes, to Hermes’ oversized, zipped-up billowing statement in red, paired with matching accessories.
There was a white-out at Stella McCartney, Giambattsia Valli and Philosophy Di Lorenzo Serafini, who added a romantic touch to the trend, where relaxed fit overalls were accented by ruffled, ruched sleeves.
“I loved Stella McCartney’s bleached denim boiler suit on the SS19 runway, I would style that more paired back and let the boiler suit speak for itself,” says Boyle.
Fashion stylist and founder of vintage boutique Ada’s Attic Vintage, Rachael Sadler is well aware of the boilersuit’s potential. “Jumpsuits have been rising in popularity in 2018 and are set to a big trend for 2019 for many of the same reasons as they were originally designed for.”
Reflecting its labours roots, the boilersuit’s easy-breezy essence makes it the perfect partner for time-stripped working women. While it can be dressed up – of course – a good trend is marked by how well it moves from day to night but stripped bare, it does just as well. In a rush? Throw on an overall, one zip and you’ll be ready to go in no time.
“There are so many ways on how to style a boilersuit and most importantly so many different styles of boilersuit,” says Sadler. Easy, laid-back, effortless, but they can be elevated too, as shown by the street style circuit, who’s championing of the garb is arguably how the trend gained traction.
Offset neutral tones and layer a vivid roll-neck underneath a structured one piece a la fashion stylist and influencer, Linda Tol. Play into the boilersuit’s sturdiness like model Hyun Ji Shin and accessorise with doc martens and silver hardware. Or, if you have an affinity with matchy-matchy colour blocking, make like Jeanette Madsen, creative director of Copenhagen based fashion brand Rotate and style highlighter hued overalls like this Ganni one with rainbow heels and a tonal tote – Glossier pouch optional.
Still stuck on how to style the boilersuit this spring? Fashion stylist and vintage obsessive Sadler shares her tips: “For an evening going-out look wear with an oversized leather jacket, high heels and statement earrings – tortoise shell accessories would look great too.”
“If you want to make a statement or keep it casual and easy with black Vans, to really dress it down with trainers you could unbutton it and wear a cool vintage t-shirt under it,” continues Sadler.
The boilersuit is not one size fits all, as its varied past and vibrant present demonstrates. It does not discriminate against fabric, fit or colour and neither should you. But how to tap into the trend sustainably you ask? Well, surpass the high-street and fob fast fashion as this trend is well worth the investment. According to stylist Kendal May Boyle, the trend destined for longevity: “It may fade for a few seasons, but it will certainly come back. Everything goes full circle.”
Google trend analytics reveal that worldwide searches for women’s boilersuits have increased by over 100 percent in the last twelve months. It may be a trend, but it seems more permanent than the fleeting nature of fast fashion fads. In fact, if its varied roles are to tell you anything, it is that the boilersuit is a chameleon ready and waiting to adapt to any occasion. It’s set to serve you well, it seems.
The boilersuit’s rich history makes it the perfect item to shop vintage and Boyle agrees: “Personally, my vintage French working mans boiler suit is one of my favourite go to items in my wardrobe.”
A search query for boilersuits on popular clothing re-sale site Depop brings up over 1000 results. And while some are indeed vintage one-offs, other listings are simply second-hand high-street purchases but nonetheless, second-hand is the sustainable secret to succumbing to your sartorial cravings without supporting the environmental damage that fast fashion perpetrates.
Vintage fashion buyer and founder of Liverpool-based vintage shop The Vintage Corner Cheryl Alison believes that the hunt for a pre-loved boilersuit is worth the trouble. “Myself and our customers are a bit obsessed with them. The wider the legs and the wackier the print, the better. Vintage ones are so hard to find though, it took me months to collect 15,” says Alison.
But there’s more options out there to be spoilt for choice. ASOS marketplace bears a number of true vintage treasures such as this relaxed fit 70s boilersuit. Yet still, if you’re in the market for a true, authentic relic, vintage stores are your go-to. To bring your retro garment up to date, style with trainers or slides for serious ‘I just slid out of bed’ appeal. Effortless chic at its easiest.
And, according to stylist Sadler, the boilersuit is set to stay. “This trend is set to be around for a few seasons yet, after all if we are still wearing it for the same reasons it was designed for a 100 years later, without the adrenaline part, there is obviously something to the jumpsuit that we just love.”
Leading trend forecasting company WGSN hailed the boilersuit as investment-worthy in its spring/summer 19 collection review report and sustainable brands certainly believe so too. Focused on minimising waste and designing timeless pieces devoid of seasonal fads to curate a wardrobe that works for all occasions, when a sustainable brand takes notice of a trend, it’s indicative of its worth.
UK based brand, Lucy and Yak, who believe in paying all workers a living wage, offer up a black boilersuit made from organic corduroy and low impact dye. And, you can be sustainable on a budget too, the Eddie overall retails at a mere £68 – score. If the reviews are anything to go by, this one is as comfy as pyjamas. Pair yours with a contrasting roll-neck.
If you’re in the market for eye-catching colour, Northmore Denim’s mustard boilersuit is certainly a treat. Fashioned from one hundred percent organic cotton, this structured number racks up serious utility points. Or, bag yourself a bargain boilersuit and look to Brighton brand Ilk and Ernie who’s retro inspired, indigo denim creation is on sale for a sweet £68. You would do well to pair it with white Veja trainers and a lightweight beige trench coat.
Alternatively, if you can’t be swayed to turn to sustainable solutions and fancy a quick fix, styling the boilersuit sustainably has never been so easy with the high-street offering a selection of all-in-ones made from eco-friendly fabrics.
High-street store & Other Stories, a firm favourite of street style stars, have produced a number of overalls this season that tick the sustainable fashion checkbox. Our picks? The off-white puff sleeve number is perfect for the warmer months ahead and adds a modern touch to the revival. Match with strappy sandals and a basket bag for faux vintage appeal. If your style is more strong than sweet, the white workwear boilersuit with metal hardware harks back to the garment’s roots. Toughen up the look with black patent ankle boots.
Weekday, the lesser-known sister brand of H&M offer up a beige panelled boilersuit that harks back to the item’s workwear origins. The limited-edition lightweight number is reworked from 100 percent recycled materials. Take notes from Copenhagen based model and influencer Freja Wewer, who worked with the boiler’s utility chic and styled hers with a white t-shirt layered underneath and accessorised with a khaki tote.
Whichever way you decide to revive the boilersuit this season, make sure you do so sustainably – your sartorial senses will thank you and so will the planet.