My expectations may have been a tad high, but I thought rompers would revolutionize my fashion life. The benefits seemed endless: it's one piece so you don’t have to deal with matching separates, it’s like a dress but you can bend over in it, and it’s adorable! Serena wore one with feminine aplomb that one time on "Gossip Girl." And, for that matter, Taylor Swift rocked a graphic black and white romper in New York.
These ecstatic thoughts careened to a halt when I realized that, in order to use the bathroom, you literally have to take the whole thing off. Being practically naked in a public restroom was enough to curb my romper enthusiasm…a little.
However, my intrigue of this little fashion piece persisted—particularly after I did some research. Rompers, it is suggested, can be traced to two drastically different places: baby wear and suffragette Amelia Bloomer. While it looks innocuously simple, the romper actually represents a shift in cultural responses to clothing, even as baby wear. According to Colleen Callahan in "Is It a Girl or a Boy? Gender Identity and Children's Clothing," in the 1890s, perspectives on childrearing were evolving and research showed that crawling was important for a baby’s maturation. In order to encourage this milestone, rompers or “creeping aprons” were created so babies could develop their motor skills. All babies—regardless of gender—wore rompers as they progressed to toddlerhood. Callahan notes that the romper was officially the very first unisex attire featuring shorts or pants.
So how did women start wearing something made for babies? Well, it started in the 1920s. Rompers received less criticism than pants because they looked similar to dresses. The rompers often came with matching skirts to tie over them, ensuring the wearer did not forget her femininity.
They, and their leggy sister the jumpsuit, were delayed results of suffragette Amelia Bloomer’s petition for rational dressing options for females. Jumpsuits hold a special place in fashion history because they allowed women to work safely in factories during WWII. Amelia, who died before seeing her efforts become mainstream, pioneered a “spirited effort to free women from their voluminous and constricting haberdashery: heavy skirts raking the muck of the streets, multiple petticoats, bustles, miscellaneous padding, and lung crushing whalebone - all told, some fifteen pounds.”
FIFTEEN POUNDS INCLUDING LUNG-CRUSHING WHALEBONE? Holy crap! Amelia basically saved all of our lives. This thought replayed in my mind as I bought a light little $10.90 romper from Forever21.com that weighed, at most, like one pound.
So, how did I wear it? Well, I decided to try it three ways and was surprised at how versatile the piece was.
I’m using this term loosely, lest I have delusions of being something I’m not. After all, I think the true definition of edgy dressing is clothing that pushes social boundaries. Edgy style often evolves out of underground street styles or alternative fashion scenes. Think Jean Paul Gaultier, Alexander McQueen (maybe?), Rihanna, and Katy Perry.
In my parroting of this genre, I paired the romper with a leather jacket, my tights featuring crisscrossing black bands, and lace-up boots. I also wrapped a gold and black lariat around my wrist. I took the picture in a parking lot because it seemed adequately edgy (it was either that or with the duckies that populate our apartment complex and the duckies kept running away).
I love the trend of boho-chic. It’s a glorious, free-spirited mishmash of bohemian and 60s/70s fashion. While Sienna Miller currently rocks the style, it has some weighty fashion pedigree, as seen in paintings of Pre-Raphaelite women wearing flower crowns and loose layers.
I put on a fringed, lacey kimono, a long gold necklace, and black lace-up sandals. I also channeled boho icon Twiggy by slipping a headband over my forehead and wearing sunnies with round lenses.
This category is all about elegant timelessness. Coco Chanel honed this look by creating clean, feminine staples (for example, the LBD). Fashion greats like Jackie Onassis, Audrey Hepburn, and Grace Kelly dominated this genre. Nowadays, Kate Middleton completely embodies it.
I don’t own a white collared shirt so I put one of my husband’s inside the romper and topped it with a blazer. I also added pointy heels, a small clutch, and a dainty gold necklace. I felt ready to be a lady who lunches.
What I like most about rompers is they add an unexpected element to any outfit. They are inviting—people always come up to look at my romper more closely, asking, “Are those shorts? A dress?” Rompers, in and of themselves, defy easy definition by making recognizable silhouettes into something different. So, bathroom issues be damned, I’m a romper fan.