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noun [countable]

a one-piece item of clothing made of soft material and covering the arms, legs, feet and body, usually worn for sleeping or relaxing

'Even Justin Bieber can't get away with the male fashion horror that is the all-in-one body suit. The Baby singer was spotted leaving his London hotel wearing the bright blue onesie and socks as he boarded his tour bus to take him to Germany.'

The Sun 8th June 2012

At periodic intervals the world of fashion throws up some newfangled item of clothing which captures the imagination of trendsetters and makes its presence felt in the chain stores, but looks likely to fade into the archive of garments which seemed like a good idea at the time, but have no lasting appeal. Are you old enough to recall 60s 'hot pants' or 70s platform shoes, for example? Or, horror of horrors, the 80s 'shell suit'? If you were born into a digital age and think that you may have escaped such fashion misdemeanours, then think again. 2012 is the year of the onesie.

onesies come in all colours and designs, plain or patterned, with or without hoods, and there are even spotty, stripey 'novelty' versions

A onesie is a one-piece item of clothing, usually made of soft material like fleece or jersey cotton, which covers arms, legs, torso (and sometimes feet), and looks rather like an oversized Babygro (baby's sleepsuit). If you're still struggling to visualise the concept, check out this website which shows a range of examples. As the site illustrates, onesies come in all colours and designs, plain or patterned, with or without hoods, and there are even spotty, stripey 'novelty' versions reminiscent of outsized leopard or Dalmatian costumes…

Predictably, the jury is still well and truly out on whether the onesie is here to stay, some people embracing the concept as a fun, warm, comfortable bit of leisure- or sleepwear, others regarding it as a prize example of bad taste (or at worst even slightly risqué). Whether we'll be seeing onesies in the shops five, or even two, years from now, remains to be seen, though in the meantime we can glimpse them sported by high profile celebrities of various ages, from 18 year old singer Justin Bieber through to award-winning actor Brad Pitt.

Background – onesie

The term onesie in reference to an adult-sized garment has only emerged in the last couple of years or so, but the word in fact originated as a registered trademark of Gerber Childrenswear, a US company that distributes baby products. Gerber's trademarked term is Onesies which, analogous to the trademark Babygro in the UK, has been adopted in American English as a generic term for infant bodysuits. The company has defended the trademarked status of the term, opposing its genericized usage and also its adaptation to the singular form. The fact that the term onesie has now become a popular reference on both sides of the Atlantic for an adult version has presumably made its defence as a trademark even more problematic.

by Kerry Maxwell, author of Brave New Words

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This article was first published on 24th September 2012.

Open Dictionary

Dunning-Kruger effect

the phenomenon by which an incompetent person is too incompetent to understand his own incompetence

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