The cozy and quirky story of the sleeper

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Jumpsuits, bodysuits, snapsuits. No matter what you call them, if you have a baby at home, you probably have dozens of them.

Technically, “onesie” is a trademark term that has been owned by Gerber Products Company since the early 1980s. As the Gerber Childrenswear website states, “The Onesies® brand, or any similar, potentially confusing variation ( for example, “Onesie” or “Onezees”), cannot be used as a generic descriptor or as a name; it should only be used as an adjective, with reference to the Onesies® brand by Gerber®.

Yet despite Gerber’s “aggressive” approach to protecting their brand, Americans tend to use the word colloquially to refer to just about any one-piece baby outfit. And American parents certainly continue to dress their babies in Gerber-formal or non-formal suits.

Coveralls from Gerber Childrenswear.

But have you ever wondered where this type of clothing came from and how it became so ubiquitous? It turns out that the combination has many interesting precursors and links to historical events.

Union Suits And Sleeper Blanket

While the word romper tends to suggest these short-sleeved, legless bodysuits, people also use it in reference to the long-sleeved one-piece pajamas that babies wear. And it was this style of clothing (minus the fabric of the foot) that started to gain popularity at the end of the 19th century.

The “union suit” was a kind of long one-piece undergarment with roots in upstate New York during the dress reform movement, a.k.a. the rational dress movement of the Victoria era. . Although earlier versions existed, the first union suit was patented in 1868 with the descriptor “emancipation union under flannel”. This garment offered an alternative to tightening corsets and bustiers for women, although it also became a fashionable option for men and children.

Advertisement for Union Under-Flannels (also known as Union Jumpsuit).  The ad originally appeared in Harper's Bazaar magazine in 1879.

Stock montage via Getty Images

Advertisement for Union Under-Flannels (also known as Union Jumpsuit). The ad originally appeared in Harper’s Bazaar magazine in 1879.

The union coverall was traditionally made of flannel with buttons on the front and a flap at the back known several times as the “fold-down seat”, “seat flap”, “access hatch”, “firefighter flap” And other hotter names. Over time, two-piece thermal underwear (ie “long johns”) replaced union coveralls as the preferred choice for “flannel underwear” in the 20th century.

Yet the children cradled a one-piece garment at bedtime – the blanket sleeper. In the 19th century, a Michigan textile worker named Whitley Denton allegedly invented a special “sleepwear” for children which was mass-produced as “Dr. Denton’s Blanket Sleepers. The design was initially similar to that of jumpsuits, but it has evolved with new developments such as the invention of the zipper.

In the 1950s, Walter Artzt, originally from Vienna and living in Pennsylvania, changed the game of jumpsuits when he invented one-piece pajamas with strategically placed snaps to make diaper changes easier. He registered the name “Babygro”.

Winston Churchill’s mermaid costume

Other one-piece garments rose to prominence during the heyday of union dress. French acrobat Jules Leotard invented a special bodysuit which he wore until his death in 1870. The garment was incredibly popular among gymnasts, dancers and circus performers and eventually became known by his name.

Additionally, many working-class men wore one-piece overalls, also known as overalls, in the 19th century as the Industrial Revolution created a need for clothing suitable for new types of work, such as repair. and the cleaning of steam engine boilers.

In the 1930s, Winston Churchill ordered special one-piece leisure suits, possibly inspired by the overalls worn by masons working in his field. He came to wear them frequently in public, notably during visits to the White House during WWII.

Churchill shows General Dwight D. Eisenhower the zipper of his famous mermaid costume as they tour the troops preparing for D-Day near Lydd and Hastings in Kent in May 1944.

IWM / Getty Images via Getty Images

Churchill shows General Dwight D. Eisenhower the zipper of his famous mermaid costume as they tour the troops preparing for D-Day near Lydd and Hastings in Kent in May 1944.
Churchill walks with American financier and presidential adviser Bernard Baruch on the grounds of his Kent home in July 1949.

Hulton Deutsch via Getty Images

Churchill walks with American financier and presidential adviser Bernard Baruch on the grounds of his Kent home in July 1949.
Churchill wears a mermaid costume as he relaxes in a lawn chair during a visit to the United States in January 1942.

Central press via Getty Images

Churchill wears a mermaid costume as he relaxes in a lawn chair during a visit to the United States in January 1942.

During the war, people in England were often woken up at night by the sound of air raid sirens warning of potential German attacks. Churchill’s loose, zippered jumpsuits actually presented a good balance between running outside to seek refuge in your pajamas or underwear and taking the time to get dressed fully.

Instead, people could just quickly put this garment on top of whatever they were wearing when they heard the sirens. Thus, it became known as the “mermaid costume”.

Churchill wore a variety of mermaid costumes, ranging from gray stripes to soft green velvet. In 2002, one of his costumes sold at auction for around $ 40,000. Her styling was more reminiscent of a pilot outfit or other one-piece adult clothing, but it seems appropriate to mention it in the context of the history of baby onesies, given the man said: ” All babies look like me. But then I look like all babies.

Nowadays, many adults are still experimenting with adult size jumpsuits, especially around Halloween. Baby sleepsuits have also become more inclusive, with smaller sizes for premature infants and accommodation options for little ones with disabilities. Because clearly everyone deserves to look cute and comfy.


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