In the Future, We All Wear Onesies

By
LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 12:  (EMBARGOED FOR PUBLICATION IN UK TABLOID NEWSPAPERS UNTIL 48 HOURS AFTER CREATE DATE AND TIME. MANDATORY CREDIT PHOTO BY DAVE M. BENETT/GETTY IMAGES REQUIRED)   (Front L to R) Aston Merrygold, Ortise Williams, Marvin Humes and Jonathan 'JB' Gill of JLS pose with dancers as they prepare to embark on their upcoming 'The 4th Dimension 2012' arena tour on March 12, 2012 in London, England.  (Photo by Dave M. Benett/Getty Images)
Photo: Dave M. Benett/Getty Images

The Norwegian brand OnePiece's signature garment is a onesie — for adults — and it's all over Instagram. There’s Beyoncé sporting a Fair Isle pattern on a trip to Iceland. There’s Kylie Jenner and two pals in matching camo-print versions. Gayle King picked a jolly green style for Christmas at Oprah’s house. Justin Bieber's worn lipstick red and retro robin’s-egg blue.

These are not flattering, narrowly cut jumpsuits; they're a distinctly more infantile subcategory, and in the very near future, it might seem perfectly normal to wear one to dinner, to work, even on a date.

The look does have a certain defiant, woke-up-like-this appeal: If the butt-hugging Juicy Couture tracksuits of yore screamed trophy wife, the unapologetically shapeless OnePiece feels feminist by comparison. As Gayle King puts it: “What I like about them is you’re not trying to be sexy when you wear them; you’re just trying to be comfortable.”

Photo: Craig Barritt/Getty Images

The OnePiece line was founded by three self-proclaimed slackers, who decided, watching TV one cold Norway winter, they would be a lot more cozy if their sweatsuits were permanently sewn together. Their creation — unisex, made from thick 100-percent cotton, with an industrial-strength crotch-to-hood zipper — retails in the accessible-luxury sweet spot of about $140. On the much pricier end of the sartorial spectrum, too, there is a steady offering of avant-garde onesies. Sceney shop VFiles currently features a cheeky $835 banana-leaf-print number, and Barneys stocks multiple variations of sleeveless black potato sacks by Rick Owens.

Thanks to its egalitarian silhouette — equally suited to both men and women — it is also of a piece with the much-hyped progression toward gender-neutral fashion, what Ruth La Ferla described recently in the Times as “that deliberate erosion on the runways of a once rigid demarcation between conventionally feminine and masculine clothes." Dao-Yi Chow, co-designer of the CFDA-winning androgynous label Public School, was perhaps only half-joking when he told the Cut last year: “We feel like people will be wearing onesies in the future.”

Photo: Gisela Schober/Getty Images

At first, it’s crazy to imagine heading to brunch or brainstorming meetings dressed like a child on Christmas morning. Simon Collins, Parsons' former Dean of Fashion*, equates this to effectively wearing a Snuggie out in public — a sign that “you’ve given up on life.” But there have been other comfort items —  Birkenstocks, Uggs, velour tracksuits, plaid shirts — that we once reserved strictly for downtime, until they suddenly started showing up downtown. Same goes for normcore.

While the onesie aesthetic is nothing new for culty designers, after years of being confined to very particular circles (club kids, German bobsledders, socialites in Swiss chalets), the OnePiece is now gaining steam in the U.S. First came the debut of a Soho pop-up shop back in November (the brand’s second Stateside storefront, after an L.A. boutique). Though the brand would say only that the launch returned “huge numbers,” the company is now planning a permanent location in New York and possibly another in the Hamptons.

Sales were further bolstered by our winter from hell, when all anyone wanted to do was curl in the fetal position, swaddled in plush cotton. (I gifted myself a OnePiece during the holiday season for this very reason.) And this sort of weird, climate-change-inflected weather could have increasing influence over the way we shop in the future: “The seasons are getting all messed up, so there’s a new trans-seasonal nature to our clothing," says Collins, the former Parsons fashion dean. “It has to be more functional. There’s a practicality that people are starting to appreciate.”

Maybe our quest for warmth and practicality can help explain the spawn of OnePiece look-alikes, including the polar-fleece Funzees and the multi-pocketed Solitaire designed by comedian Margaret Cho. But the onesie also surely enjoyed a nice Beyoncé bounce this year. In addition to the Iceland Instagram, Bey was more recently seen rocking a dove-gray OnePiece out to dinner with Jay Z during New York Fashion Week.

Photo: Gisela Schober/Getty Images

OnePiece is also betting big on the normcore wave. “We want to make the onesie a stylish and acceptable piece of clothing that you see everywhere you go,” says company spokesperson Rachel Koggan. The brand will thus be toning down the kitsch and aiming a bit more upscale for the fall 2015 collection, introducing moody colors, tapered ankles, less bulky rear-ends, and even a futuristic-looking rainproof onesie — in other words, inching toward a happy medium where the comfort of diaper butt might one day meet the coolness of skinny jeans. Some potential collaborations with big-name designers are in the works, too; the details thus far are hush-hush.

Photo: David Livingston/Getty Images

But part of the onesie's appeal is its humble origins. “I first learned about the OnePiece on the morning news,” says Alex Kasavin, co-owner of the men's shop Idol Brooklyn, which carries one of the aforementioned Rick Owens potato sacks. “I actually thought it was pretty cool, and pretty brave for a company to put that out there.” One wouldn’t expect a collector of painstaking artisanal designs to be turned on by a piece of clothing that might be mistaken for an infomercial product. But maybe that’s just another sign that these two distinct markets for the onesie — celebrity stalkers and Rick Owens obsessives — are on their way to converging somewhere in the middle, right at that point where it will seem silly not to just go ahead, buy one, and even wear it to brunch.

*This article has been updated to show that Simon Collins is the former Dean of Fashion at Parsons, not the former Dean of the school.