The Inventor of the Onesie: Winston Churchill

Your cute, summer onesie has an apocalyptic origin story. Instead of fading from fashion, the onesie has gone from strength to strength. We chart the greatest moments of the ultimate one-piece fashion item. With festival season in full swing, onesies are once again a wardrobe staple. The loose, one-piece garment and its shorter counterpart, the romper, have been popular for decades (with their cousins, the jumpsuit and catsuit enjoying their own sporadic bursts of popularity). But, unlike the utilitarian jumpsuit, which first came into use by pilots and mechanics in the 1910s, or the union suit (long flannel underwear favored by cowboys, Civil War soldiers, and this writer's dad), the onesie’s origins are a bit more colorful.

The infamous ‘onesie’, a practical one-piece item of clothing originally designed by Winston Churchill,  British Prime Minister, one of the greatest wartime leaders of the 20th century, Nobel Prize Winner in Literature, first person to be made an honorary citizen of the United States. Our great wartime leader designed his own version of the onesie as his ideal clothing choice while fighting the Nazis. He was famous for his all in one suits for every occasion. The “Siren Suit” one of his most famous, and how did Winston Churchill Refer to these..”Romper Suits” (someone else coined the term onesies..but Romper Suits is all his!).

There are only three original Winston Churchill siren suits known to be in existence, including a green velvet garment created by Turnbull & Asser. Churchill reportedly returned his siren suits to the Jermyn Street shirt-maker for repair on several occasions – damaged not through enemy action but by cigar burns.

Churchill wore one of these suits on a visit to the White House, Washington, in December 1941. At a press conference that week, Mrs Roosevelt declared she was having one made for her husband. Churchill himself was devoted to the siren suit and wore his all the time, even after the war, leading to some truly comical photo ops that found the British Bulldog himself, kitted out in a fetching, bottle-green siren suit alongside Stalin, Eisenhower, and other heads of state.

Marking the 50th anniversary of his death, Churchill’s Scientists tells the little-known story of how Churchill’s fascination with science led to the scientific achievements that helped Britain win the Second World War. One of his onesies was displayed at Blenheim Palace as well as other artifacts from his life, and you can see his Green Velvet Romper Suit at the Science Museum (where they had to commission a specially made mannequin due to his unique proportions). If you fancy one yourself,  one went for £29,875 in 2002!

Eventually, the one-piece left behind the memory of its past, leaving us with the whimsical, body-conscious garment we know and love today. Next time we slip one on, we'll be grateful it's worn by fashion choice and not necessity — and of course, we can only wish to wear ours as well as Churchill.