Not just Skims. How the leotard became a fashion star

In the beginning it was Jane Fonda’s workouts, then came Donna Karan and the eighties style. Today the body is synonymous with empowerment feminine, of uncompromising sensuality and comfort. The fascinating story of a garment born in another century, but still very young

Pbefore the body Skims were Alaïa, Donna Karan and (later) Martin Margiela. Before that, Jane Fonda and the French gymnasts. The history of one of the essential items in the wardrobe of women of all ages and sizes is decades long, full of upheavals and revolutions, with a single constant: the enhancement of the female body. Whether hidden under jackets and shirts or displayed with tights and high heels, the bodysuit continue to conquer, today as then

From dance to fashion magazines

The genesis of such an enveloping and comfortable garment can only be linked to movement, therefore to sport. In the second half of the 19th century it was, in fact, Jules Leotard, a French gymnast, who was the first to make this garment, perfect for his trapeze exercises. While not yet as we understand it today – not as close-fitting and made from wool or silk – the leotard almost immediately became the uniform of choice for gymnasts, acrobats And dancers, constantly looking for garments that leave the body free. The definitive transition from the world of sport to that of fashion took place in the 1940s, thanks to long-sleeved and high-neck models. In 1943 it was Harper’s Bazaar to declare that the leotard was “a fresh idea, projected towards the 21st century and the space suits of Supergirl”

Jane Fonda’s workouts and her arrival on the catwalk

Became the official uniform of the first bunnies of Playboyas well as the uniform of Linda Carter aka Wonder Woman, the leotard recorded a real boom in the seventies. The reason for such success can be traced back to the introduction of innovative and high-performance materials, such as spandex And nylon, which ensured unparalleled elasticity and comfort. Technological evolution went hand in hand with a new conception of fitness, understood as an indispensable daily activity to take care of yourself and your well-being. Leggings in bright colors, soft leg warmers, very high-cut bodysuits: with his training videotapes, Jane Fonda arrives in homes around the world. Thanks to his workouts, the leotard enters the wardrobe of millions of people, cheeky and funny, further consecrated by the costumes of cult films such as Fame – They will be famous And Flashdance

Jane Fonda in 1984 at the height of success thanks to her fitness videotapes (Photo by Harry Langdon/Getty Images)

Once again, designers and maisons didn’t miss a much-loved trend. In the eighties, Donna Karan she included the leotard among hers Seven Easy Piecesthe seven garments that made up the essential wardrobe of the modern woman, a capsule wardrobes minimal and sophisticated ante litteram. Alaïa definitively consecrated it as a symbolic item of the fashion house, enveloping and sensual, successfully re-proposed by the current creative director of the maison, Pieter Mulier

Models backstage at a Donna Karan show in 1985, in black leotards and sheer tights (Photo by Fairchild Archive/Penske Media via Getty Images)

The Skims body and underwear that becomes manifest

After being the passe-partout head of numerous pop stars, from Beyoncé to Madonna, from Lady Gaga to Jennifer Lopez, something changes. Complicit in the diffusion of the movement of body positivity and a major inclusion of non-sample sizes in shows and photo shoots, the body becomes a tool for claim. That strange garment that combines a tank top and briefs should no longer be hidden, but shown. It should be exhibited with pride, as well as the curves it underlines, without hesitation or filters. It is no longer an under-jacket or a simple top to be combined with a skirt, he is the star, even in its declination shapewear, containment, elastic. It is an earthquake that traces a clear distance from globally successful brands such as American Apparel, in whose hands the leotard was an instrument of seduction, worn by very young models portrayed by male photographers in provocative and allusive poses. Now it’s the women who are taking possession of that garment again and really making it their own

All these instances are hidden behind the success of the leotards Skimsappreciated for their design and unparalleled communication. Wolford it stands out for its innovative techniques and a vision that embraces and enhances female sensuality. A work similar to the one carried out by Casey Cadwallader driving by Mugler. From the very high-cut bodysuits with transparent inserts flaunted on the catwalk by Bella Hadid to the costumes for the last tour of Dua Lipathe designer has made this underwear an object of desire to wear alone, without the need for supporting characters.

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Bella Hadid on the Mugler Spring Summer 2020 runway

How to wear the bodysuit for Spring Summer 2023

The catwalks of the season have told all the souls of leotard. Michael Kors offers the most versatile and contemporary version, as a tank top with oversized blazer and midi skirts. From MM6 Maison Margiela it is worn in view, open over the tight-fitting shirt, while Chanel imagine it in a delicate white and with ruffles. Sensuality is at home from Of the Corein a total black interpretation with self-supporting stockings, e Andreadam, who prefers a disco declination. With sheer skirts, as per Jason Wuor mini and jaunty, as per Missonithe body is confirmed as an indispensable garment

Yesterday like today, towards the next seasons


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