Flashback Fashion — How to Wear a Unitard

Black strapless unitard
Three unitard outfits

Revisiting how to wear a unitard? Why on earth would we do that? After all, it’s been 10 years since women went crazy for a cotton spandex jersey unitard for $38 at American Apparel. And five years since J Lo rocked a glittery unitard for New Year’s Eve. Can we not close the door on the unforgiving bodysuit that only very tall and thin women can wear?

Well, yes and no. Yes, because there are few women who can effectively pull off the unitard-as-outfit. But no, because the unitard can be a very comfortable, functional, and even stylish layering piece in cold weather. And since winter’s just around the bend, it’s the perfect time to lay out the dos and don’ts of styling unitards.

How to Wear a Unitard

Do wear a unitard as a base layer for warmth. A unitard is nearly undetectable beneath a maxi dress or wide-legged pants — making it a nice way to warm up without bulk. If warmth is your end-game, choose a breathable cotton unitard in nude or black.

Do wear a unitard as a base layer for style. When warmth takes a backseat to style, pair your cute unitard with a flowy kimono or a high-waisted denim skirt. The key (to avoiding the trashy look) is to select companion pieces that are loose and fall away from the body.

Do wear a unitard to sample sales, or the thrift store. A body-hugging garment is an advantage when you need to try on clothes and there’s no fitting room nearby. Random designer jean find at Costco? If you’re wearing a unitard, you can throw off your top layer and try those jeans on right over your base layer — no fitting room, no problem. That’s guerrilla shopping for sure.

Don’t wear a unitard to any long events, including road trips. A body-hugging garment is a disadvantage when you have to use the bathroom. And it’s downright miserable when the only option is a  public bathroom.

Don’t wear a cotton spandex unitard by itself unless you’re going to dance class. A high-style unitard might possibly be a stand-alone outfit, if you have a rockin’ body. But a plain old cotton unitard? Just say no.

Don’t wear a unitard to have tea with your devout Catholic mother-in-law. The unitard is a racy, sexy garment — an inappropriate choice for traditional occasions and traditional company.

Are you inspired to try a unitard, or deadset against it? Let us know!

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    Catherine Brock

    As a Southern California transplant now living in the Midwest, Catherine has turned layering into an art form and accepted that UGGs actually do have a place in the stylish lady's wardrobe. She's been featured in Woman's World Magazine, DrLaura.com, Refinery29, Wellness.com and has made appearances on ABC7 Chicago, FOX2News St. Louis, KCAL9 Los Angeles, Fox19 Cincinnati, WGN TV Chicago and WCPO TV Cincinnati.

    Blog Comments

    Nice pants… lol…

    Nay, nay, nay, nay, nay!  Even the girl in the picture who is bone thin doesn’t look good in this.  I remember having one for gymnastics that was shiny red spandex when I was in 7th grade (1987).  Terrible then, terrible now.  Please don’t make me look at this on the subway every day… I’m too busy enjoying the fact that girls are finally wearing tops that actually cover that roll of fat that hangs over the too tight jeans they insist on wearing.  Gross.

    Nay! Partly because of the bathroom issue, but mostly because the unitard is just SO unforgiving on the figure!

    Big Fat NAY on this one.  I agree with Kath….even a supermodel doesn’t look good in this.  I hate the new 80’s legging thing going on now.  It was bad enough the first time around in junior high and I’m not planning on reliving it again.

    De-lurking to say NAY.  As everyone else has pointed out, even the model looks lumpy in that getup, so I don’t even want to contemplate what *my* figure would look like.

    NAY!  a painful nightmare for the long waisted.  no one should have to endure an all day wedgie for fashion!

    I have been trying to think of at least one way this could be a Yay, but there are none. It’s just terrible.  Even if you threw a large belted sweater or dress over it, you are still left with stripping down every time you needed to use the bathroom.  so I vote a big fat NAY.

    Did anyone else live in bodysuits, jeans, and a belt in middle school? Oh my tragic fashion past.

    I’m going to have to say nay. This is soo baad. Its like all the ugly 80’s clothes are coming back. I have a problem with these and the leggings everyone insists on wearing. Perhaps I’m the only one whose mother forced them into stir-up pants in the early 90’s on the way to grade school because it was “cute”. I’m traumatized now and would not be caught dead in anything closely related to that.

    I’m going to have to go with nay on this one! It Brings back horrible memories and that “outfit” is definitely not forgiving!

    I think this has potential.  I would wear it underneath a pair of jeans with a blouse or sweater in the winter.  I would much rather look at a unitard when someone bends down instead of a thong or butt crack.  As long as some one does not wear this look alone it could be really cute.

    NAY!!!!!  For little girls in ballet class, fine, but for a grown woman?  Give me a break.  What’s next?  A tutu?

    Hot mess!

    It’s all cute until you have to go to the bathroom. NAY, NAY, NAY

    HECK YES! This is AWESOME! Since when have 80’s clothes been cringe-worthy..?? I would go as far as to say that i would wear this ‘unitard’ often, to the shops, visiting friends… Maybe it’s just cause im a lot younger though. But has anyone ever given any thought to how hard a playsuit is to get into? People still wear them, plus i dont think it looks that bad on the model. There would be different styles that you could get so that it looks good on different body shapes. Plus there IS a reason that gymnasts wear stuff like this and if i am not mistaken, its because theyre easy to do stuff in. Thats a good thing… right?

    Nayyyyyyyyyyy!!  Unitards are just not flattering to the figure….Plus, have anyone ever tried to use a public restroom with a unitard?  THE HORROR!!

    This could be a yea!  Don’t think of it as wearing it alone.  Wear it under a tunic, or under a jersey knit dress.  I think it is great as an under piece for layering.

    i think it could be ok.  i love the leggings thing-they allow me to wear all kinds of cute skirts and dresses in new ways and this could be the same.

    it’d be okay on the women out there who are super skinny, never hot, and don’t pee.

    so that leaves like.. 3 people?

    A BIG nay! The unitard would make me look like a sausage. With clothes over it, I would look like a sausage wearing a mini skirt or a tunic. Not a good look.

    A BIG NO!NO! I will agree with Racheal I lives the leggins and the bulky sweaters with the leg warmers.And I hate to say it Iam not a teenagers any more so this style will have to go back in the closet.[way back].

    i really really hope no-one is going to wear it/ awful.

    i dont think its soooo bad.
    if you throw on a cute skirt it looks like a v neck top and leggingss.

    As a stand alone piece, I would say absolutely not! I find that lots of people are seriously disillusioned about what their bodies REALLY look like or simply DO NOT CARE! I would really prefer to not see someone wearing this.

    But the truth is if someone wore it correctly, no one would know it was a unitard. I love to see people taking questionable pieces and innovatively creating a look for themselves. As we all know what works on one person is a disaster on someone else….so be realisitic about what you are working with.

    I say if you know what you are doing go for it. The bathroom issue is yours alone!

    Big NAY.

    It’s a gimmick: AA’s attempt at being tragically hip by bringing back Everything 80s, no matter how unflattering or inefficient. It would promote a surge of UTIs among women who hold their pee for an unhealthy amount of time because they don’t want to remove their ENTIRE outfit to go to the bathroom.

    I agree – as a stand alone piece, this is a Nay.  And if you want a layered look you can achieve the same thing with a pair of black leggings and a matching v-neck t-shirt, which has the bonus of more versatility and no bathroom issues.

    Big fat NAY! I think they’re not bringing EVERYTHING from the 80s, just the ugly and unflattering stuff. -_- And I don’t know about being young. I’m 17 and, although I really like my body shape, I don’t have to wrap myself in a bad version of the cat suit to show it off. I have much classier and fun clothes that do the job without making me look stupid. Even as a teenager, I still think this “new fashion” is fit for the circus or the ballet, not for the streets.
    PS: Some people really don’t seem to know what their bodies look like. I’ve seen many rather big chicks wear things like this with skirts or shorts and someone really needs to tell them…it does not get any more unflattering than that!

    HEY…i wear a unitard…i have several…i love them…and if i say so myself i look damn good in it. i would say as long as you have the body for it, it’s fine…there’s a lot worse you could wear…even if you don’t have the body just wear what you want and don’t worry about other people. other people tell me i look damn good in it too. it’s easy to accessorize, it can be formal or it can be really casual. here’s what i don’t understand….if i wore a black leotard with black leggings over it…no one would think that was weird…but because it just happens to be connected OMG…I saw Tyra wearing one with a zipper down the middle…and she looked damn fine. and i think this particular unitard comes from american apparel and anything from that store is fabulous. so bascially: unitards=fabulous

    As a guy, I love wearing my unitards. I got only three. One retro flexitard one that’s black with hot pink & teal slanted stripes on the chest & legs, and two adidas ones, one blue and one black. 🙂 And I plan on getting alot more, as my birthday is coming up next month in October. 🙂

    I also got alot of leotards, one gray from American Apparel, four from Danskin, and alot of others. I love wearing them also. 😉

    I wear them when I exercise, and when I do aerobics. 🙂 I also got over 30 pairs of leg warmers, and countless pairs of slouchy socks. 🙂

    Warmly yours,

    Yay (well minus the pee pee problems but, I hate public bathrooms anyway). I can see it with a nice little jean skirt and some super cute shoes.

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