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Article 45
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Return of the Romper: Nineties Nostalgia Part II

Handmade Romper, Return of the Romper

Return of the Romper, Love to sew Studio

By Jessica Lynn Harris

     When I was nine, my favorite article of clothing was my black velour overalls. I dressed these up with a white turtleneck and pulled my frizzy hair up with a scrunchy in a half ponytail, thinking I was the coolest kid on the block in those clothes. When my little sister borrowed the overalls and managed to tear the knee in playground mishap I was heartbroken. But it was not long after this incident that overalls, rompers, and jumpers--the go-to sportswear of the eighties and early nineties--were no longer found on shelves. Women’s and junior’s onesies were officially out, and it didn’t look like I’d ever find a replacement for my favorite. 


     I’ve looked back on those styles with part nostalgia and part shame, smirking just a bit at what exactly that generation could get away with, as Calvin Harris so eloquently expresses in his danceable song Acceptable in the Eighties. Sometimes I think I re-watch episodes of My So Called Life just to see Angela and friends in denim overalls and flannel. So you can image that it is much to my shock (though perhaps it shouldn’t be with the reemergence of leggings, leg warmers, and skinny jeans) that after almost a decade in half of extinction, they’re back. I first noticed rompers and overalls at Top Shop in Manhattan a little over a year ago (leave it to Kate), and then they made a vigorous return on the pages of fashion magazines for this spring. Finally, one of my sewing students came to class prancing about in a cotton floral print, elastic waistband romper, clueless to reason for my excitement, as if they had never been out of style. At a trip to the local shopping mall today, I noticed that each retailer--H&M, Forever 21,  Loft, etc.--now has generous selections to choose from. 


     Rompers were made for young children as a playsuit because they’re simple to throw on with usually no closures and the leave room to move around. With expansive shorts that almost give the illusion of a skirt, rompers become popular with women’s wear in the 1930s. My mother recalls the romper making another comeback in the 1970s, mostly as swimwear coverups and relaxed summer looks. She made one from terry clothe as a freshman in high school for her first official sewing project in home economics class. 


     What I like best about rompers is that, despite the childlike associations, they show off a woman’s curve. Because the garment is made with either a gathered or elastic waist center at the natural waistline, it creates that much adored hourglass figure, which a more boxy shaped person (such as myself) is forever trying to capture the illusion of. Additionally, they’re super comfortable and when charming style and comfort meet, that is a very rare and nice place indeed. 


     There are several things to consider when deciding on whether or not to make or purchase overalls or rompers. The first, as if the first in all fashion considerations, is silhouette. Denim overalls work best on taller, leaner women with an already relaxed style. For larger chested women, a wrap style romper is flattering. Avoid the strapless variant as it is usually made with an elastic top and can cause skin and flesh to push up past the bodice. A shrug paired with a strapless romper may also do the trick. Another consideration is the hemline. Because the romper shorts are spacious, even skort-like, super short rompers are a bit of a risk, because when bending over, running, or doing any physical activity that they allow for easily, the extra space at the opening will make it easier to see underneath. Finally, you must consider that this style may go as quickly as it came and that one day you will be faced with pictures of yourself in your new purchase. It is equally likely that future hipsters will ironically imitate this look, if they aren’t already doing so. 


     After these careful considerations, I decided it was finally time to revisit a favorite of half a life time ago. And while I haven’t exactly found a replacement for my black velour overalls, I did find a 1980s pattern (Simplicity 8495) to recreate them. But I wasn’t ready to go that far. Instead, I opted for a contemporary pattern (McCall’s M6083), and made a simple, three hour strapless romper from peach and white striped cotton fabric. I’m pleased with the results, and to have a costume that can easy switch from playful to preppy with the addition of pearls and a cardigan. 



Chic Weekly: on-line Fashion & Sewing Magazine
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Article 45




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