If someone said the words “fleabag jumpsuit” to you, you would probably not picture an especially attractive item of clothing. Perhaps some sort of exterminator’s uniform? But ah, capitalize that F, and that’s a whole ’nother story, if this week is any evidence. As Fleabag fever takes over the internet, or at least some corners of it, one outfit worn by the show’s titular Fleabag, played by Phoebe Waller-Bridge, has become a particular locus of obsession: the jumpsuit she dons for a family dinner in the premiere episode of the show’s second season, the most notable features of which include a lack of back material and a … strategically placed large front keyhole.
Fleabag is an import from the U.K., and when it aired there earlier this year, it created a bit of a run on this style of jumpsuit, an off-the-rack number available for £38 at retailers like Topshop. Now it appears the same thing is happening stateside: It’s on back order here and here. It must be said that the jumpsuit is a pretty risqué get-up, especially when worn for a dinner that includes a priest, as Fleabag did. While it’s not quite as revealing as say, the famous Versace dress that led to the creation of a hugely popular search engine, one also doesn’t not think of that dress upon seeing it. (For side-boob reasons.) When women ran out to buy the blue dress Kate Middleton wore in her engagement photos, that made sense to me; everyone’s always looking for a nice, but not-too-nice dress. But a backless jumpsuit is so … specific! I must be missing something. Where would you wear it? What kind of support situation does it require? Does it confer all who wear it with some kind of PWB-ian magic? Should we all buy it and do some kind of reverse-Handmaid’s Tale stunt thing? I decided to talk to five women who bought—or considered buying—the Fleabag jumpsuit to get some answers.
Kathryn VanArendonk, a Vulture staffer, said that she bought the outfit about four minutes after a friend sent her a link to it. “She sent it specifically because it was the Fleabag jumpsuit, and much of the appeal of it IS that it’s the Fleabag jumpsuit,” she said. (VanArendonk went on to publish a love letter to the jumpsuit.)
It seems like the jumpsuit spurred a contagion of friendly enabling, in fact. It just kind of felt like everybody was doing it. Buyer Ilana Kaplan told me, “I saw it trending last night and saw people’s photos and saw body types similar to mine looking really good in it, so I was like, maybe I would too?”
Genevieve Burgess thought the jumpsuit looked good on Fleabag, but she was on the fence until she found out that it only cost about $50—and a bunch of strangers on Twitter encouraged her to go for it. “While I was trying to figure out if it could work out with heels, my tweet contemplating the jumpsuit hit the Twitter moment and then it was sold out!” she said. Hate when that happens.
Karen K. Ho said she bought the jumpsuit even though she hasn’t actually watched the new season of Fleabag yet; she’s just that inspired by PWB and Fleabag. “I have never bought anything like this in my entire life,” Ho said. “I don’t own any other jumpsuits. I don’t own other pop culture stuff.” (Coincidence that the jumpsuit seems to appeal especially to journalists? Who can say?)
Ho did a fair amount of research and shared her findings, as well as a picture of herself in the jumpsuit, on Twitter, and was pretty surprised by the outpouring of compliments she received. “I’m not a very fashionable person. I can’t afford to buy super-nice clothes. But I put it on, and I was just like, is this what hot people feel like all the time?” Such is the magic of the Fleabag jumpsuit, apparently. “It looks very, very good on me,” VanArendonk said. Fionnuala, a London health researcher who preferred to withhold her last name to keep her penchant for Fleabag off Google, said she hoped to “do my best Phoebe Waller-Bridge impression” in the jumpsuit, which she ordered this week and is eagerly anticipating.
“I greatly admire PWB and her ambition and her output,” Ho added. “If I can feel a little bit of that while wearing the jumpsuit, that is worth it to me.” Rarely do admiration and research about boob tape fit together so seamlessly. Ho also plans to look into nipple covers and special bras, which seems to be the consensus. “With regards to my boob concerns,” Kaplan said, “I’m hoping that the top will be tight enough to support without a bra but with a little tape if necessary.”
As for where they’ll wear it, there are actually a ton of occasions it would be good for, the jumpsuiters said. Weddings! Panels! “I would wear it on a date,” Fionnuala said. “Maybe not a first date.” And if someone else shows up wearing the jumpsuit at a function where you’ve also chosen to wear it? “I would try and get a picture,” Fionnuala said. Kaplan said she would “compliment them on their great taste in TV shows.” VanArendonk went further: “I am sure that if I show up wearing this jumpsuit and someone’s already wearing it, we will shout FLEABAG JUMPSUIT! and high five and yell about how great Fleabag is, and then we’ll hug and exchange twitter handles and feel bonded by our mutual love of reasonably priced jumpsuits and PWB’s brilliance.”
But Fleabag is a complex, nuanced show. Its fans are sophisticated. They can’t just accept a jumpsuit without critiquing it too. There was, for instance, a wide-ranging discussion on Twitter about who the jumpsuit was intended for: What if you’re short, or well-endowed, or wear a size larger than the U.K. 16, the largest size it comes in? “It’s not a jumpsuit that all people are gonna feel great in,” VanArendonk acknowledged. These are fair points. “I think it is a little bit of a pity that a lot of the discourse around it has been, ‘Oh well you have to be tall and skinny to wear it,’ ” Fionnuala said. “I think it’d be really lovely to see people who don’t fit that and who make it work. It would be great to see people of all types of shapes and sizes and genders and whatever wearing it.”
Another sin of the jumpsuit’s? (Forgive us, father.) It is undeniably fast fashion. Ho said, “This kind of garment, even if I plan to keep it a while and wear it often, is part of a much larger problem,” nodding to sustainability and waste. “I definitely thought about it when I was ordering it.” To be a Fleabag fan is to reckon with one’s flaws. But thanks to jumpsuit season, also one’s hotness.