Daisy Bridgewater at home with Bird

Journalism, jumpsuits and an enthusiasm for faff-free dressing, Daisy Bridgewater the founder of Spry Workwear and former Saturday Telegraph Magazine columnist, and I, have a lot in common. After 20 years ‘peering into other people’s domestic lives’, Daisy set up her own company in order to simplify her own – and sort out certain sartorial issues. In a rather lopsided trade-off, I swapped Daisy a signed copy of Know Your Style for a Spry Workwear jumpsuit. Much neater and a lot less slouchy than most of my other all-in-ones (I have a long body and often have ‘up-yer-bum’ issues), the Spry Workwear classic boiler suit fits like a dream and has received loads of lovely compliments. I had a chat with Daisy about moving to the country, starting a business and the joy of the jumpsuit:

TNMA: How did you go from journalism to workwear?

DB: I had long harboured a desire to run my own business, having spent a decade writing about other people’s creative and business endeavours. I wanted to start my own story, and to build something up gradually, rather than flitting from one story to the next. Having freelanced for years, and living progressively further from the office, the temptation not to get dressed in the mornings started to loom large. I wanted faff-free clothes that would make me feel pulled together, yet take me through the day however varied the tasks at hand might be. So many women work from home, juggling professional, creative, manual and domestic work. When I moved to deepest Suffolk five years ago the idea for a uniform for life started to take hold. As well as writing, I have a small holder’s licence, so what was going to take me from my desk in my studio in the garden to my editor’s office, via feeding the pigs and checking the cows’ water? What could I throw on in the morning and never have to think about again, bar the odd change of shoe?

TNMA: Tell me a bit about the design process – getting the fit right -and about manufacturing in the UK.

DB: The process from idea to product was painfully slow and I often nearly lost heart. I learnt quickly though that ideas are easy- it is the following them through that takes grit and determination. I knew I wanted to design a boiler suit, in retrospect, possibly the most complicated thing to start with (but ignorance at that stage was rather useful). My mother always used to wear one when I was a child in the seventies, and always looked super stylish. Big hair, green boiler suit, red clogs.  Eventually I found a vintage mechanic’s overall on Etsy which had various elements that I loved. I took it to a pattern cutter and got him to alter it to fit a female form. I lengthened the legs, cinched-in the waist, and added detailing to the cuffs. Eventually, after various versions, I hit on the shape that I now use for both the classic and denim boiler suits.

TNMA: Has it been a sharp learning curve? Did you have any expert advice on running a business?

DB: Going from pattern-making, to sampling through to production was the steepest learning curve. Everything that could have gone wrong seemed to happen to me, and I realised that it was almost always down to my complete lack of experience. The experience has been both hugely rewarding and humbling. I am learning as I go. I have had snippets of advice along the way, particularly from the CEO of Fashion Enter, a London factory and social enterprise. Next year I am determined to find a mentor.

TNMA: Are you going to stick to jumpsuits or expand the range – I know you also have a utilitarian dress – is there room for some more Spry Workwear?

DB: I am going to stick with boiler suits as they are proving so popular, but am looking to expand the colours and fabrics available. I am also reworking the Chore Dress, which is currently out of stock, as this is also very popular as a throw-on, faff-free multi-functional one-piece. I also want to do dungarees, and a good sturdy skirt. But as I have learnt, these things take time.

TNMA: Lots of women in their 50s/midlife are starting their own businesses- why do you think that is? And what advice would you give to someone considering a second career?

DB: I think mid-life gives you the confidence and perspective to try something new. I also think the internet is a huge enabler. My advise would be to lower your guard, and learn to listen to advice wherever it might be offered (although whether you take it is a different matter). Understand that you will have a lot to learn. Be humble, and be true to your own ideas, rather than swayed by other people’s. Also, remember that whatever you learnt in your previous career will be of great value to you at some point.

TNMA: What’s the best way to wear a jumpsuit?!

DB: I wear mine with a grey marl t-shirt in summer, and a thin long-sleeved cashmere jumper in winter, with trainers in winter, or canvas Victoria pumps and no socks in summer. I also like to wear a few simple chain necklaces to add a bit of subtle sparkle.

Photo: Penny Wincer

Now all I need is a dog. More jumpsuit joy:

29 thoughts on “New Year, New Jumpsuit

  1. I think the idea is great, and the two photos look gorgeous, simple and super stylish. But here is my issue with ‘One piece dressing’ I cannot ever find a dress to fit, let alone a jumpsuit. I am a classic pear shape, narrow shoulders, neat bust and waist but with pesky hips that are a good 11″ wider than the waist, increasingly, I find retailers are catering for the more modern shape, in some cases there is little difference between the waist and hip size. I’ll have a browse at Daisy’s inspirational workwear but I strongly suspect from the photos they’ll be designed for those lucky ladies of proportional measurement. Great article though, love the concept and the possibilities and of course the dog – acquire a Cocker Spaniel Alyson, it’ll be the love of your life and the perfect accessory to a boiler suit!

  2. I absolutely love this, especially the fit. Sadly the obvious problems remains…at 64 I make too many trips to the bathroom during the day to make this anything I could easily wear away from the house. Perfect for a day at home though. Someone needs to design a clever way to pee without taking the whole top down. I like the other Spry offerings as well, and Daisy is an inspiration!

  3. You look great in the jumpsuit , not sure I would , but what I really love is that dog – like the offspring of my big shaggy white Lurcher & my smaller smooth black Lurcher . What a beauty .

  4. I shouldn’t worry about that Previous Poster, these garments are really not a problem there.
    I love jumpsuits and adore dungarees, days dressed in anything else always feel lacking. They are such effortless pieces and always look chic in my view.

  5. Whilst the boilersuits/jumpsuits look good in the photos I do not think they are for everyone. I look horrendous in one – over size 14 and it does not work. Maybe I will try again once the lifestyle changes aka diet and exercise have had an impact

  6. Am I the only one who isn’t a fan of the jumpsuit? The jumpsuits you have pictured here and in previous posts look like you work in a garage! Not for me. I think it looks too schlumpy. I’m American and live in Northern California and it doesn’t appear to be a trend here.

    1. Rose,
      I live in Texas & I’m not a fan either. I enjoy wearing jeans, but I also love looking feminine & getting dressed up & I’m 66, which is just a number. My sister wore jumpsuits in the 70’s, but they were more fashionable.

      1. Hi Rose and Deborah,
        I live in Atlanta, and own and wear several jumpsuits of varying types. While I love the ease and style, I rarely see any other women wearing them. I’m 61, wear them with boots, trainers, sandals, or slip-ons, usually with a tee, feminine silk blouse, or light sweater underneath and a moto jacket over if it is cold out. I usually add an interesting piece of jewelry to bend things toward the feminine. Without fail, when I’m out and about in a jumpsuit, people compliment my style. Almost always, the compliments are coming from folks much younger than me. But you are right- they are not really a thing here in the states. Oh, and once, while wearing a vintage flight suit and trainers in Whole Foods, a young man asked me if I was a Navy pilot, blushing when I turned around and he saw the row of tiny heart pins where insignia would normally be. We both laughed. So, on that day, I may have looked something like a mechanic, at least from behind!

  7. I could definitely do with one of Daisy’s boiler suits & I love that she modelled it off vintage mechanic overalls. She’s right about needing a utilitarian uniform when working from home. Let’s be honest the jumpsuit is like a onesie for grown-ups 😉

  8. Love the zip and the way you’ve both styled it zipped low and with tops underneath. Also love the fact it doesn’t have a tie around the waist or buttons up the front – so much less faffy this way!

  9. I LOVE the jumpsuit, went to the lovely website to order one…only available up to size 14 why oh why oh why?

  10. Daisy I am your mother! – “My mother always used to wear one when I was a child in the seventies, and always looked super stylish. Big hair, green boiler suit, red clogs.” Yep, that was me, exactly,where did I go? Time to chuck out the clothes I wear to suit other people and get back to me – but maybe not the clogs now that I have knee replacements!

  11. You’re absolutely correct: faff-free dressing, but not faff-free removing…and as previously noted, at this point in life my daily plans include frequent bathroom visits. Getting undressed and dressed (including tucking in the underlying top just-so) in between meetings all day long would drive me nuts, and make me late. Call me crazy, but if someone could design a jumpsuit with an invisible round-the-waist zipper (ripcord?!), I would seriously consider it. Loved wearing them the last time they were popular; gave me a sense of strength and confidence my teen self sorely needed.

  12. So disappointed when clicking through to the Spry Workwear website that they only go up to a size 14.
    Am I too big for this clothing line at a size 16? Wouldn’t risk the jumpsuit, but some of the other items would be nice to try. Missing a trick here, Daisy.

  13. Had one about 20 years ago, Black canvas type fabric, zip up, perfect for toilet issues! I wore it to death & it finally got several holes so became gardening/decorating chic ….probably would be a fashion statement now. In theory I think they’re great for ladies of a certain age….although probably not for everyone. A revisit is called for….

  14. Thank you for this! I loved reading Daisy Bridgewater’s story and hung on every word as I am on my third version of some active wear for women over 40 (tops specifically). Like me, she wanted something to wear she could not find so she went out and made it. It is very daunting once you realize what you don’t know and it certainly takes perseverance but I am inspired by her story and I like how she is keeping the line small with a signature piece and growing the brand slowly from there.
    I’m definitely on team jump suit. I really like the khaki one you wear too Alyson. True they aren’t for everyone but it sounds like she has some no-nonsense dresses too. Although if you try to appeal to everyone you appeal to no one.
    I also love the words faff and dungarees BTW. Great post!

  15. I dithered for about three months over taking the plunge to buy a classic boiler from Spry and I am completely thrilled with it. I’ve literally worn it at any given opportunity – so comfortable, so hard-wearing and it has become softer with a few washes. It’s now like a second skin. I love the retro utility element but also the air of capability it gives off (errrr… falsely in my case – I definitely can’t change a tyre) which feels very now: Post-Weinstein. Times Up.

    I worried it wouldn’t flatter but I ordered the 10 for my “10 in dresses/14 in trousers (!)” body and it is perfect. They are generously cut. I would say that a 14 might be worth a whirl for someone who usually takes 16. Alyson is a totally different shape to me and looks fab in hers but it suits a curvier frame too. Especially if, like me, you are high-waisted as the ‘all in one’ aspect disguises that fault in proportion brilliantly.

    Try one! So well made and I bet you end up doing brilliantly on the £ per wear breakdown I always run my purchases through.

  16. Julie Bowland, comment right at the top there, you’ve voiced exactly my concerns. I might get in touch with Spry to ask about that. I think there’s little point in re-designing a man’s boiler suit to fit a woman’s form if you don’t allow for hips and arse! I have that horrible thought that the size 14 (biggest size? Really Spry??) will be snug on my bottom half and baggy on the top, just not what’s needed really is it?! If they do free returns perhaps I’ll try it and feedback when I have an actual informed opinion!

    1. Hi Eleanor
      Thank you for your feedback. I have worked hard to cut the jumpsuits to accommodate a curvy female form. The cut is generous, and I hope flattering to many women. The sizing is limited at the moment as I am a small start up but I plan to size both up and down in the near future. Please email me directly if you wish to try one.
      With all good wishes

  17. Lovely idea. Imagine my disappointment when realising that the largest size is a 14. Really? Or is there a technical explanation, in which I would be interested to understand it. I suspect not as the trousers only go that far.

  18. Very much like the dress! Wore a jumpsuit in the 70s, but now would find it a challenge in the WC. Struggling with all that fabric…not for me.

  19. Good to read about Daisy Bridgewater becoming a designer of an overall business. She looks comfortable and relaxed in hers. Alyson you look relaxed and chic in yours with Breton striped top and dangly geometric earrings.

    However it’s not a type of clothing I have ever had an interest in wearing. Not in the student dungaree days when I wore denim dresses belted instead nor indeed now. With separates or dresses no problem with toilet breaks or being comfortable working from home. Some form of loose trouser or track bottom does the job.

  20. Whilst I appreciate the utility dress up/dress down aspect and the versatility of the boiler suit – maybe Winston Churchill did know a thing or two! – it is not for me. Too awkward to go to the loo. I feel the cold and having to remove my top half to relieve the bottom half would be a step too far. I, too, wore ‘jumpsuits’ in the 70’s in cord, denim and cotton but for me personally, they are too Rosie the Riveter.

  21. Alyson you look wonderful in that jumpsuit! I feel as some others have posted here, I don’t like to remove my top in order to use the bathroom. Especially when I am out in public. Also I do think that a jumpsuit favors a certain body shape. I believe a long slim body looks wonderful in a jumpsuit. But if you are bigger on top then on your lower half or vice versa I think it would be hard to fit properly.

Leave a Reply

Thank you for commenting but please be respectful and considerate.
If you want to be in my gang, play nice.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *