The jumpsuit is the design of the Rational Dress Society, which wants to free people from the fashion industry and rules of dressing based on class and gender. As an extra political kick, they’re making them from fabric created by shredding Ivanka Trump clothes, which is amusing, though I don’t know if that says much for the quality of the fabric.
While the Rational Dress Society raises some provocative ideas, I’ve got three big objections to their jumpsuits: political, practical, and aesthetic.
To begin with, political: Jumpsuits aren’t ungendered. Jumpsuits in this style are generally male clothing in this society. (I remember my father going through a phase where he wore them.)
Making male clothes in sizes that fit women is not making “ungendered” clothes. While many women choose to dress in male clothes – and appreciate any company that makes the same quality clothes they make for men in sizes that work for women – women dressing in male clothes does not make the clothes in question ungendered.
If “ungendering” is part of the purpose here, why not, instead of using an item of clothing that codes male, make something that’s traditionally worn by women, but with the pockets, well-stitched seams, and comfortable cuts common to male clothing. Let the guys break the gender barrier for a change.
In other words, why not make a dress?
O.K. So I know why they aren’t making dresses. Most straight, cis men are terrified of the idea of wearing dresses, including men who assert strong lefty opinions. Straight cis women aren’t terrified of jumpsuits, so the company will do better business (a nice capitalist approach). But it should be obvious that if challenging gender is part of the purpose here, a dress would make a much more powerful statement. Particularly since they’re using fabric that came from what were likely uncomfortable and badly made dresses sold by a company that actually does represent the worst excesses of the fashion industry.
But if a dress is too radical for them, why not a tunic, an item of clothing that has been worn by people of all genders in many different cultures. Robes and other clothing similar to tunics are a form of male attire in much of the Middle East and Africa today, and tunics were male clothing in Europe in the past. They’re a common form of traditional clothing for women in a lot of cultures, and often seen on western women today.
A tunic is not exactly a dress. It could be made on very simple lines: straight sides, long or short sleeves, lengths varying from mini to knee to ankle length. In adjusting the fit for different people, they could take into consideration the use of darts for folks with breasts and provide belts for those who want to emphasize their waists. Properly made, tunics could have good pockets and be just as suitable for most activities as jumpsuits.
And tunics would solve the practical problem presented by these jumpsuits, which do not take into account that the wearer will need to pee while wearing it. This is, of course, not much of a challenge for a person equipped with a penis, who can just unzip and do their business.
But for those of us whose peeing process involves a more protected organ, jumpsuits are a pain in the ass. You have to take the damn thing off every time you want to pee. As far as I’m concerned, a jumpsuit is not at all a practical item of clothing for people who don’t have penises.
Tunics would solve this problem, and wouldn’t present any barriers for the penis people either.
The last problem is aesthetic. In this, I suspect I’m challenging their political point of view directly, since I gather that part of their purpose is to make clothes that are bland and indistinguishable so that we all look the same and don’t judge each other by what we’re wearing.
Now I know people – mostly men, but a few women – who like that approach to clothing. They want serviceable, boring clothes so that they can put on the same thing every morning without worrying about whether their socks match (because they’re all white) or whether everything pulls together.
I have no objection to this form of dressing for those who prefer it. Back when I practiced law, I used to wish we used the robes worn by barristers in England so that I didn’t have to pay attention to what to wear to court. There are times when an obvious uniform makes your life easy.
But use of clothes for adornment, not just for protection from the elements or social niceties, goes back to the beginning of human beings. Lots of folks – myself among them –like to use clothing to adorn ourselves. We like color. We like jewelry. We like different mixes of clothing.
That doesn’t mean we don’t want well-made items and pockets. (I cannot over-emphasize the importance of pockets, since clothes designed for women so often lack them or only have decorative ones.) It does mean we don’t want our clothing choices to be reduced to a choice between an ugly black jumpsuit and an ugly white jumpsuit.
I mean, couldn’t they at least have made a purple one? Or a red one?
Me, I don’t want to be forced to choose between white (which gets dirty) and black (which bores me). And I don’t want to wear jumpsuits of any kind, since I vastly prefer clothes in which a trip to the toilet is not a major undertaking.
If I can’t wear purple clothes that are easy to deal with, I don’t want to be part of your revolution.