Thanks to shows like Glow, featuring ’80s fitness fashion, not to mention the general, “Let’s get physical” vibe influencing boutique exercise studios right now, retro activewear is having a moment. And the piece peaking in popularity this summer has to be the bodysuit. Adding to its current cool factor? Celebs like Khloe Kardashian donning slinky styles on social media.
Whether you’re looking to keep up with her, or are just interested in streamlining your early morning scrambles for workout threads, the bodysuit’s got you covered. (Literally.) It’s now in the same league of wardrobe essentials as the perfect white tee, according to Stephanie Dardenne, director of merchandising for the luxury e-tailer Carbon38. She credits former Kardashian-Jenner stylist Monica Rose and fitness mogul Tracy Anderson—along with Beyoncé and the Hadid sisters—for helping usher in the bodysuit’s redux.
“We’re really inspired by classic Jane Fonda and the energy and boldness of activewear at that time.”
And unlike in their heyday during the ’80s and ’90s, there’s a ton of diversity in current bodysuit designs: from delicate ballet-esque versions at Live the Process, to sporty, Richard Simmons-worthy unitards at Outdoor Voices, to sexier options with mesh, cutout, or strappy detailing at Michi. You can wear one solo for, say, Bikram yoga or Pilates (some styles even have built-in bras) or layer it into your athleisure look. “Bodysuits and jumpsuits have always been a strong category for us,” reveals Dardenne, who dons hers for hiking or boxing. She suggests wearing yours on its own or over leggings (true #TBT status) for workouts.
One brand particularly keen on throwback bodysuits is Outdoor Voices. Its offerings are “an homage to ‘90s workout videos,” says the brand’s design director, Alexa Silva. (She pairs hers with OV’s stretch crepe shorts.) “We’re really inspired by classic Jane Fonda and the energy and boldness of activewear at that time,” she says.
But Fonda isn’t the only source of inspo for this fitness fashion trend. “It gets you in character to channel your inner ballerina,” says Michi’s founder and designer, Michelle Watson. (Like Dardenne, she cites Rose—as well as Rachel Zoe—as key forces behind the bodysuit’s resurgence.) “I wanted to offer a versatile layering piece that could be worn for dance or Pilates class and out at night.” Hers are made with high-quality, Italian, quick-dry, Nylon/Lycra and mesh. “[They] have performance properties if you sweat, but it doesn’t look like it’s made with workout fabric,” she explains.
Which makes sense, seeing as the biggest group buying bodysuits right now are high-fashion customers, according to Watson. And in terms of demographic, Dardenne agrees. “Activewear is an extension of ready-to-wear, and we shouldn’t treat it as a separate category,” believes the merchandising director, noting that there’s now an expectation for non-fitness fashion trends to segue into workout wardrobes. Whether for the barre or the bar, it’s a pretty damn exciting revival all the way around. The only hitch? Trickier bathroom trips.