In the first episode of season two of Fleabag, Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s grief-filled, sexy, self-aware tragicomedy, her character Fleabag wears a jumpsuit. It is black and backless, with a high neck and a keyhole opening over the breastbone, and she wears it to a family dinner where she knows everyone will think she’s a mess. Fleabag is just trying to communicate a minimum level of personal put-togetherness, a sense that she’s got things under control, that she’s not a desperate heap of uncontrolled urges and wild self-destruction. She is trying, very hard, to be good.
So she wears this jumpsuit, this extremely sleek item of clothing that looks both confident and alluring without sliding over into the territory of too sexual, too direct, too much. Her sister comments on it, and on how nice she looks. Her father doesn’t say anything about the outfit in particular, but he notes that she seems atypically self-possessed, unusually un-naughty. It’s the outfit that launches all of Fleabag’s second season, a gorgeously well-wrought, painful, illuminating season about a woman learning how to want to live again.
I can do all kinds of close reads of why this particular item of clothing speaks to me, especially within the context of Fleabag’s second season, one of the most astounding seasons of TV I’ve ever seen. Beyond what it’s meant to communicate to Fleabag’s family, the jumpsuit is also uncannily well suited to the ideas and issues Fleabag’s been struggling with. She is a woman striving to overcome her need to dissociate through sex; she’s working hard to let herself be intimate without throwing her body into the vulnerable void of personal interactions as a way to distract from her mind. The jumpsuit still invites thirst; it still suggests that she’s a powerful, attractive person. But its bodily openness has been dialed back. It’s revealing in a way that feels like a choice rather than a plea.
Four minutes after someone sent me the link to purchase this jumpsuit, I bought it.
I actually bought two in different sizes, to make sure that one of them would fit. I did not balk at shipping it from the U.K., I did not pause to consider the untenable braless situation this particular jumpsuit requires. I bought it, and when it came less than a week later I put it on and I looked pretty fantastic in it. And I am not alone in my fascination with this jumpsuit, and I am not the only one who put this thing on and went Oh my God, look at me wearing this jumpsuit.
There are two prongs to my jumpsuit love, and I imagine they’re both working underneath much of the sudden, widespread passion for this particular outfit. The first is pure fandom, the simple pleasure of owning a piece of some cultural thing that you love. I have fallen for this before; a not-insignificant amount of my winter wardrobe is made up of things I bought from the online props auction from the show The Americans. (Mostly from the season where Keri Russell was pregnant because, let’s be honest, those are far more wearable sizes for most people.) There is no official Fleabag merch I can buy to feel closer to this show, but I can buy this jumpsuit.
Sadly, it is not one of those magical rare pieces of clothing that works well on lots of body types. It requires a fairly specific amount of breast, and also some adhesive to make sure that specific amount of breast doesn’t become a public amount of breast. Depending on your comfort level with visible nipple outlines, you may also need one of those adhesive cup bra things I’ve been told exist but have yet to experiment with. (I might now, for this jumpsuit.) More seriously, with its long legs and long, narrow halterlike top, the jumpsuit is obviously made for similarly long and narrow people. It’s a major limitation.
But outside the limiting elements of its design, the jumpsuit is surprisingly accessible. It cost me less than $100, including U.K. shipping. It’s a stretchy rayon material, so it’s fairly forgiving in the hip region. It is, most important for me, that unicorn kind of outfit that could so easily pass for something much more expensive, but which I can put on without fretting about stains, child smudges, wrinkles, weird crotch lines, or much at all in the way of further styling.
It sends exactly the message Fleabag wanted it to send: It looks like I made an effort, and I look great, but also I mostly already was great, thank you very much. You can tell, because I had the good sense to buy this very reasonably priced and alluring jumpsuit.