Marianela Núñez

Ready for take-off

Leaping into style with a jumpsuit


This article is taken from the October 2022 issue of The Critic. To get the full magazine why not subscribe? Right now we’re offering five issues for just £10.

For complicated geopolitical reasons, I recently spent the evening at a techno gig. Still scarred by having attended a Prince concert inadvertently dressed as a provincial drama teacher (velvet — it can prove an issue), I chose to make no concession to my surroundings. My reluctance proved winning: the Young People were having none of the Berlin bondage vibe.

Jumpsuits are the dressy way of signalling lack of dressiness; low-key, yet kick-ass

Instead, said twentysomethings were sporting the very garb the ravers of my youth once donned — dingy vests, wash-soft dungarees, limp t-shirts; faded normcore three decades more flaccid for having been exhumed via Depop.

I was reminded of Véronique Hyland’s words in her book, Dress Code, about Zoomers’ love of the luxurious normalcy of series such as Friends (1994-2004) and The Office (2001-2003), as this marked a prelapsarian period in which “being, or remaining, middle-class seemed like an achievable aspiration”.

Ditto their penchant for Nineties drag. “These pieces, dredged up from the detritus of long-past trends, also seem like a response to an epoch of climate catastrophe and social apocalypse, when no new things are created and we’re left clinging to the vaguely nostalgic flotsam and jetsam of prior eras like a life raft.”

Mad Max posited an apocalypse clad in Dieselpunk leathers. The actual apocalypse turns out to be about 30-year-old Gap cargo pants sported with turd-brown Kookai polyester. Where fashionable dressing has traditionally meant looking as if one’s rig-out has something intentional about it, theirs is an anti-style statement the goal of which is to appear unintentional. Style declares: “I sourced this and have created a look with sprezzatura.” Gen Z shrugs: “I found this, and am not invested in it in any way.”

I get this, obviously: even a desire for insouciance marks one out as crasslytry-hard. And hats off for giving it to The Man, and all that. But, I can’t inhabit this aesthetic. It’s too drippy. What I will be doing is sporting a jumpsuit.

Jumpsuits are the dressy way of signalling lack of dressiness; low-key, yet kick-ass. They combine the ease of a onesie with the attitude of a Charlie’s Angels heroine: utilitarian, while being fabulously extra.

They are also bracingly au courant. My beloved ally, Times Fashion Director Anna Murphy, confesses that she boasts “at least 12”, praising their ability to render the wearer ageless.

Jo Hooper is the creator of NRBY, the label concocting one-mile wear to swan about in in one’s ’hood, only we’re not talking lowest-common denominator sweatpantery, but sumptuous, jewel-toned treasures. Hooper is queen of all things jump.

As I type, I am sporting NRBY’s sublime spring 2022 Dutch blue cord incarnation, about which I am deluged with compliments. I survived the heatwave in its exquisite rose-lilac Lise linen number (now £75), biked over when temperatures staggered towards 40.

As I type, I am sporting NRBY’s sublime spring 2022 Dutch blue cord incarnation, about which I am deluged with compliments

This autumn, NRBY boasts four versions, two from Jo’s collaboration with the forever-leaping Royal Ballet principal Marianela Núñez, 10 percent of the proceeds from which will be donated to The Royal Opera House.

There’s the Abby, a long-sleeved, navy take in slub cotton jersey (£125); the navy Sylvia velvet shirt (£160) and Nikita velvet trews (£150) that can be paired for a lavish mock all-in-one; the Pip velvet jumpsuit in khaki and navy (£250), and the fitted Lori in true-blue denim (£125). And one would be a damn fool not to partner these with NRBY’s Patineur faux fur scarf in brilliant cornflower (£39).

Whistles and Me&Em are established purveyors — anywhere where adults roam. I harbour almost sexual feelings about & Other Stories’s forest green Belted Corduroy Jumpsuit (£120) which I bagged the moment it appeared online at the end of July. And when I say “almost” I mean “total”.

& Other Stories’s forest green Belted Corduroy Jumpsuit

Cropped, high-waisted, nattily belted, resolutely tactile, with more than a sniff of sex about it, it’s Rosie the Riveter meets Liz Hurley’s Vanessa Kensington in Austin Powers. In fact, The Hurl sported a tight, tailored, tweed jumpsuit to discuss whether the Powers franchise should return, quashing any idea of a new one, while high-fiving Ms Kensington’s signature guise.

For the jumpsuit is a modern staple. I may be only halfway to Murphy’s score, and yet to succumb to Net-a-Porter’s somewhat niche evening sub-genre, however, I cherish my stash, rolling them out whenever I am required to semaphore detached dash.

Indeed, so desperately did I desire one of John Lewis’s Somerset by Alice Temperley flared, Forties-style, Utility Jumpsuits (now £72), I was prepared to purchase it in ghastly, paper-bag beige. I can dye it, right?

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