Jumper Dress

AKA: pinafore dress

How to say it:  juhm-per  dress

Traditional Features: 

Jumper Dress

  • often sleeveless
  • meant to be worn over a blouse, shirt or t-shirt
  • can have a faux collar/neckline and sleeves attached to make it look like the dress is being worn over another top
  • can be any length or silhouette
  • made from a variety of fabrics

21st Century Jumper Dresses

In the 21st century the jumper dress is more commonly known as a pinafore, but confusion over the correct nomenclature doesn’t seem to have had an effect on the popularity of the style. Many different versions of the dress are available in the fashion marketplace, and while they tend to be more popular with high street brands rather than the high-end, the couture jumper dress does exist for those who wish to seek them out.

Bench Hobbs

Bench, Hobbs

Madewell Suno

Madewell, Suno

Origins…

…of the style: The exact origins of the jumper dress seems to be a bit fuzzy – one source states the style evolved from aprons and became popular when women didn’t have a lot of clothes and laundry was difficult – having a jumper dress to wear over blouses allowed for more outfit options with less laundry. Another source suggests that the jumper dress started out as a smock worn by artists and workmen, while another lists the 14th century women’s surcote as the predecessor to the jumper dress.

Regardless of where it came from, all sources agree that the style was popular in the early 20th century; particularly in the 1920s as it was perfect for the boyish, straight-lined silhouette and short skirts that were so popular at the time. In the 1940s the waist had been rediscovered and jumper dresses were often longer and belted. In the 1960s the jumper dress’ hemline rose and widened with the trends, taking on a tent-like silhouette.

Since the 60s, the jumper dress has never really returned to the forefront of fashion, but it has never really disappeared either. It is a bit of a wallflower style – always there, but rarely the life of the party. Its ability to change shape, silhouette and neckline has meant it can be reinterpreted many times over and thus reworked to fit into current trends if a designer decides to include it in a collection.

In the 21st century designers like Elie Saab, Preen, Jil Sander and Proenza Schouler have all included a jumper dress (better known as a pinafore dress in this millennium) in collections spanning various seasons, with styles appearing in daywear as well a more formal looks.

…of the name: The origin of the name is as unclear as the origin of the style itself, particularly because the word “jumper” has many different meanings in the various versions of English around the world.

It may have come from the mid 19th century English dialect jump meaning a short coat, or from the French word jupe meaning skirt or from the Scots word jupe meaning a men or women’s tunic, which in turn apparently evolved from the Arabic word jubba by way of the Old French word juppe.

Random Facts

  • in Australian English, the word jumper means a pullover style, knitted garment with long sleeves worn for warmth (a sweater in the USA). In the USA the word jumper is often used to name an all-in-one pants and top garment (also known as a romper).
  • jumper dresses are often sold with a faux collar and sleeves attached in a different fabric to the rest of the dress, to make it look like the wearer has a separate top on underneath.

For more info on Jumper Dresses try here, here or check out the Fairchild’s Dictionary of Fashion

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