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How we designed our boiler suit inspired jumpsuit

Mary Alice Duff

Posted on January 22 2020

In early 2019 I had the idea for a boiler suit inspired jumpsuit. Feeling like I needed armor to wear, craving protection from what felt like a whirlwind year. 

I needed something structured and durable like the boiler suits reminiscent of the 1940s but with flexibility of fit and style. I wanted something that felt inspired by the past but had our modern touch. And of course, it had to work for a diversity of bodies. 

vintage boiler suits inspiration

Something that could easily go from a boardroom, to fixing a car—in retrospect this felt like a tall order, but I think you’ll see that we actually nailed that aesthetic. 

In Spring 2019 we played around with our hemp denim, designing that into a front wrap style denim jumpsuit. If you own our Gloria Culottes or Janis Midi this is the same fabric we use for those designs. 

wrap style jumpsuit boiler suit

Although conceptually pretty cool, we found out rather quickly that this fabric, despite being great for our culotte and skirt wasn’t well suited for the jumpsuit design. The bust fit was unreliable, gaping at the neckline and arm hole, and from a design perspective lacked the structure and strength I was after in a boiler suit inspired jumpsuit. So sadly, we canned this original design and and back to the drawing board we went!

Around that same time we launched our Bessie Adventure jacket, which has become one of our most beloved pieces and I can say without shame, a piece in my wardrobe that I wear 3-4 times per week. As I came to wear and love my Bessie Adventure jacket what I really loved about it was the shoulder/ bust/ bicep fit and the strong, structured shape. How could we translate that to a jumpsuit? 

As we rolled out more pieces in 2019 I continued to search for a fabric that would give us structure, strength, flexibility and met our superior sustainability requirements. I sourced a swatch of a mid weight organic cotton stretch twill and had a hunch that this could be the fabric that would help us bring our vision to life. 

Our head of technical design, Geneva, and I met to brainstorm for our wrap jumpsuit/ boiler suit 2.0. Sharing images on Pinterest, and using our Bessie Adventure Jacket as a guidepost, Geneva quickly came up with a sketch—that’s it! I said. 

boiler suit jumpsuit sketch

Our first draft was completed in a muslin (an inexpensive, unbleached cotton fabric used for sampling) and fit on myself (6ft tall and a 2x), our 2X fit model and our size Small fit model. Tweaks were made to the overall fit, adjusting body lengths, crotches and inner thighs, and elastic shearing was added to the back, but since we used the Bessie Jacket as our guidepost we need we’d have a reliable top fit. 

How clothing is made, product development process in fashion

Geneva made adjustments to the patterns based off these fittings, I tried the samples again, gave the green light and off the team went to create the photoshoot ready samples. Working with our production team member and design assistant, Abby, the two of them cut and sewed the original samples in both a size small and a size 2X. When sewing an original sample you’re working without instructions—in fact you’re creating the production sequence as you go, deciding on construction order and seam finishes as the piece comes together. Despite the team making this process look easy, it takes YEARS of practice to get to a point where you can create a garment without any instruction. 

On photoshoot day our models, Sara and Amy, arrived early for their final fitting. Abby and Geneva fit the models, tweaking hems and widths ever so slightly to get a great fit, but for the most part the fitting is all complete in the muslin and sampling stage. While Abby and Geneva put the final touches on the jumpsuits, snipping threads, steaming and de-linting, the photographer, Brit Reed of Filia Photos, set up for our shoot. 

Despite it being “slow fashion” our process, once we have fabric and silhouette defined, is actually pretty fast. Since we’re a small business, all operating out of one space we don’t have to run our designs by “corporate”, or send our sketches overseas to be patterned and sampled, we do literally everything (except growing the fiber and turning it into fabric) right here in the studio which keeps our product development process streamlined and efficient. 

I'm pretty thrilled with how our jumpsuits turned out. And considering the models didn't want to take them off at the end of the shoot (and tried to buy them off of me right then and there) I can say they feel pretty amazing on as well. 

Without further ado, introducing the Rosie Jumpsuit!

Wrap style boiler suit, plus size jumpsuit, plus size boiler suit, plus size wrap style boiler suit

Made of an organic cotton stretch twill, that’s substantial in weight and can easily be worn year round depending on styling. 

Wrap style boiler suit jumpsuit in olive green

 With our shoulder and lapel from our Bessie Adventure jacket the Rosie Jumpsuit gives off a vintage-inspired, strong vibe that easily can transition to your modern life. 

Wrap style boiler suit plus size jumpsuit

Princess seams run the entire length of the garment, adjusting to your body's unique curves and creating an incredible line. 

wrap style vintage inspired boiler suit jumpsuit  

True wrap styling and a hint of stretch in the fabric provides a flexible fit that can accommodate fluctuating weights yet still provide structure. The wrap style is also breastfeeding friendly. 

Wrap style boiler suit jumpsuit  

Generously cut biceps fit a diversity of arm sizes and the wide width allows the wearer to easily change up the styling, rolling the sleeves for a more casual vibe.

Style the jumpsuit with dressy shoes and great jewelry for an important meeting or night out, or cuff the pants and roll the sleeves, throw on some boots and get to work. Either way, you'll be comfortable, stylish, and ever so badass. 

So there you have it. From start to finish how a design comes together at Alice Alexander. 

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