First came the white Keds. Then came the mom jeans. Sometime in the last couple of years, many of my peers and I had started dressing like women from the 1990s from the bottom down. But what to wear on top? That was the question. I am not big on crop tops, and tucking anything into pants that stop above your navel causes bunching, which makes you look like you have a FUPA. For fashion guidance, I looked to an icon of the era that birthed the look and asked, “What would Cindy Crawford do?” Easy: She’d wear a bodysuit.
When Crawford stepped out of her red sports car in that Pepsi commercial from the 1990s, wearing denim cutoffs and a clingy white tank, she drew the blueprint for looking polished in high-waisted bottoms. All it took was a willingness to wear what amounted to an adult onesie.
And starting around 2014, I noticed that a lot of people were willing once again. There were bodysuits hugging Kim Kardashian and popping up on Asos. Abercrombie made a striped one for $10, while a Givenchy lace-up version would run you about $2,600. Right now, you can find them on Reformation. Walmart, too. Of course, there were always the American Apparel ones, which I’d first encountered in the mid-2000s. Contrary to the snap-crotch versions I remembered as a preteen, these were scoop-backed and thonged. To pee, I theorized that you had to either get naked or do the risky push-to-the-side move. Discomfort and a fear of urinating on myself had kept me away for years, but with the rise (haha) of the mom jean, bodysuits suddenly made sense, an easy solution to achieving the perfect tucked-in shirt. It was not until this year though that I decided to try one myself, straight from the Gap’s ’90s Archive Reissue Collection, released in February.
If any brand were going to make a comfortable bodysuit, I reasoned, it would be the Gap. So I bought two of them online — one black, one white — and had them shipped to my apartment. They were form-fitting but not tight, and no extreme scooping meant I could wear a bra. But what was I supposed to wear underneath? This was the great mystery. I couldn’t just wear nothing, right? If I did that, I assumed that the back side would ride up, up, up and away, and that the button closure would rub. So first, I tried underwear and was reminded of the time I wore a maxi pad with a bathing suit when I was 12. Next, I tried a thong, which I forgot I owned, and oh right, they’re terrible, so never mind. Finally, I conceded and went with nothing. And you know what? I felt surprisingly cozy. The blend of breathable cotton and a slight stretch of spandex made the bottom feel supportive but not invasive, much like a pair of value-pack, full-coverage, high-cut Hanes Her Way briefs, another 1990s staple.
A casual survey of my peers has led me to conclude that some of you are not bothered by thong bodysuits, which means that the hundreds of affordable options at Asos are for you. I am not comfortable living the exposed-cheek life though, and luckily there are lots of full-coverage styles out there. Urban Outfitters offers some nice compromises for those who don’t want to floss but aren’t ready to go full granny panty, while Target will give you more fabric for less. Anthropologie is also in on the game, with bodysuits ranging from basics to lingerie. I’m partial to the snap closure, but there are some good pull-on ones on there as well. The only one I’d really recommend avoiding is this one from Anthro, a sleeveless turtleneck with full butt coverage whose details list it as “pull-on styling.” Do you enter through the armhole? Will someone have to cut you out of this when you get trapped? This seems too complicated, perhaps even dangerous.
I took my bodysuits for some test drives and awaited a chafing that never came. Instead, I just looked smooth, very smooth, and expertly tucked. They were a predictable win with my mom jeans, but I was pleasantly surprised to realize that they also eliminated the chance of butt cleavage that sometimes occurred with my loose-fit, lower-rise boyfriend jeans. Never again would I have to tug down a tank top while wearing my favorite high-waisted denim button-front A-line miniskirt from American Apparel or have to blouse over a shirt that got too bunchy in a pair of jorts.
The only challenge came with trying to button the crotch, as I needed both of my hands to get the job done. I entered a particularly small bathroom stall one evening holding an open can of beer. I didn’t want to set my drink on the sticky floor or the piss-splattered back of the toilet, so instead I put it into the pocket of my winter coat. My oversized jacket restricted my movement and made it harder for me to button the bodysuit. I had to bend down farther than normal, and just as I managed to grab the back half of the crotch, a rush of liquid came pouring into my pants. Good god, was that pee? No, it was beer, the one I’d stuck in my pocket. Do not try to button a bodysuit with an open beverage on your person. This is a good tip, and if you follow it, you will lower your chances of spending the rest of your night feeling like you’re wearing a soggy diaper.
This was an isolated incident, and the real takeaway had less to do with bodysuits and more to do with learning not to keep beer in my coat. In fact, going to the bathroom in a bodysuit is usually a pretty no-hassle experience. You simply unsnap, hike up the suit so the front and back sections are clear of the splash zone, and have at it. With the no-closure bodysuits, you can either pull the fabric down and away and attempt not to soak yourself, or you can strip off the suit. The second option brings down your chances of soakage, but it also means that if someone accidentally walks in on you, say, a stranger at a bar, there you will be, all of you, naked and squatting. This scenario may cause you to shudder, not only because you will be naked in front of someone you don’t know, but also because you may be cold while not wearing any clothes. If either of these situations sounds unappealing, get a bodysuit with a snap crotch instead.
I’ve now had my bodysuits for three months, and I was curious about how my positive feelings would evolve during the swassy summer days. I seemed to be alone in my concerns though. “This is a great, casual bodysuit that I’m looking forward to wearing as the weather warms up,” a user named JBlondies wrote in a review of the Gap bodysuit. I didn’t understand the enthusiasm until I wore it during a recent trip to Georgia and felt nicely ventilated even on a high-80s day. Right you were, JBlondies.
Another reviewer had yet to see the light. “This is a nice style bodysuit but I found it didn’t fit quite right on me,” wrote apal3. “It was loose around the bum/legs.” I thought about writing this user a response, explaining that the looseness around the butt, the fact that it left you a little room without looking saggy, was a benefit. “Your bum will thank you in June!” I wanted to say. But I did not. The journey to the bodysuit is a personal one, and there are some lessons, apal3, you must learn yourself.