How the Catsuit Trend Invaded Fashion in Spring 2022
Lizzo in a drawing by Richard Quinn / Bonnie Nichoalds
Diana Rigg as Emma Peel wore one. Just like Britney Spears and almost every Catwoman, from Julie Newmar to Zoë Kravitz. By turns fetishistic and innocent, futuristic and throwback-worthy, the modern jumpsuit originated when designer John Sutcliffe introduced the style for bikers in the 1950s. and liberating to an elegant Barbarella accessory, and its contradictions have fascinated fashion ever since.
This season has brought us a complete resurgence of the catsuit, both on the catwalks and in celebrity wardrobes. It looks like the perfect marriage of the body-conscious fashion that has reigned in recent years and the more concealed, no-frills options we’ve reached during lockdown. “Designers have fully embraced this new wave of sexy clothing, across everything from cut-out dresses to flashing bellies and cropped tops,” notes Libby Page, Market Editor at Net-a-Porter. “And the catsuit is no exception.” Rickie De Sole, director of womenswear and editorial at Nordstrom, attributes the garment’s popularity to “its ability to provide a simple yet edgy way to dress for a night out.” Hailey Bieber wore a figure-hugging crushed-velvet Saint Laurent version for her birthday. Anya Taylor-Joy and Lizzo both sported floral Richard Quinn styles. And of course, musicians love how all-in-ones lend themselves to calisthenics on stage while providing engulfing sex appeal in the arena – just ask Dua Lipa, Doja Cat and Normani.
Versatility is also part of the appeal. On the catwalk, catsuits came in all flavors: Marine Serre’s dystopian-chic style, complete with a face covering; Gucci’s logo-heavy chartreuse reimagined; Collina Strada’s crunchy-girl floral option, accessorized with a fruit-shaped bag. De Sole cites designers like Mugler’s LaQuan Smith and Casey Cadwallader, who made the sexy jumpsuit a signature.
London designer David Koma told me that his personal fascination with silhouette stems from his love of sport. He’s a huge tennis fan and his spring collection, presented at the London Aquatics Center designed by Zaha Hadid, is inspired by synchronized swimming. He credits the catsuit’s current reign to our love affair with all things athleisure. “It’s a beautiful, multifunctional piece of clothing that can be worn from high performance sport, to day wear, to party wear, to a real red carpet moment.” Grab the custom Flo-Jo inspired catsuit that Koma created for Serena Williams to wear to the premiere of King Richard. A riff on a curvy, one-legged look from Koma’s spring collection, it was a tennis fan’s ultimate tribute to one of the sport’s greats, who often preferred catsuits on the court. (In what he calls a “twinning moment,” Koma also designed a matching look for Williams’ daughter, Olympia.)
For spring, De Sole is excited about the wealth of options from Burberry, Dundas and Saint Laurent, where cut-out versions of the style dominated. Page calls the catsuit “the perfect building block” and notes that Net-a-Porter will carry seven styles from Saint Laurent and three from Pieter Mulier’s debut collection for Alaïa. And Koma is still surfing on a spring 2020 look that never ceases to attract attention: a sequined zebra edition. “Actually today,” he confides, “I got another request for it from a really big celebrity.” Consider it coming soon to a photo pap near you.
This article appears in the May 2022 issue of ELLE.
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