The True History of Overalls!

From scenic gardens to construction sites, from cafes to outdoor barbecues, overalls have transformed time and time again to meet the needs of those who wear them. Originally, overalls were utilitarian workwear designed for farming and fishing, but they have become established in American fashion, media and culture. In true utility fashion, their name is their purpose - dungarees were designed to be worn over the clothes of the wearer to protect them while they work. In modern times, overalls have moved from workwear to leisurewear, with changes in fabric choice and design features. This garment has been transformed over the centuries to become a garment of choice , durable and fashionable.
Overalls Year 1920

1 - Anatomy of the Bib

The term "jumpsuit" once referred to many types of clothing, including underwear and outerwear. Subsequently the term was shortened to bib overalls , or overalls depending on where you are from, describing a garment with a bib attached to trousers. These are La Salopette that most often come to mind today.

The bib overall consists of two main parts: the pants, which are traditionally loose, and the bib, which is a chest cover attached to the pant part.

Inventor Louis Lafont

Throughout history, the bib portion of overalls has undergone several modifications. Originally, the bib was designed as an extension of the leg , known as the continuous bib. This style held sway from the mid-1880s to the early 1900s. In the late 1800s, the bib was redesigned by Louis Lafont as a separate piece of fabric that was attached to the trouser portion of La Salopette, known under the name of separate bib.

For 30 years continuous and separate bibs have been made as popular styles. After 1916, continuous bibs were rarely made, and the separate bib has been the predominant style ever since – with the exception of children's overalls, which feature both continuous and separate bibs.

2 - Overalls are Durable and Fashionable

Originally, overalls were made of denim or heavy canvas for durability and function, or water-resistant or waterproof fabrics for fishing. Since they were considered workwear for many decades, durability and comfort were the main considerations when designing overalls.

Until the First World War, overalls were mainly worn by men or as playsuits for children. But once women had to enter the workforce to support the war effort, their everyday clothes were deemed too dangerous for factory work , and a wave of patents appeared to create the clothes. of work that women needed.

Women's Work Overalls

After each world war, more fashionable overalls for women would appear. The practical dungarees design has been adjusted to include soft necklines , waist cinching features, delicate pockets and flared leg styles, details more suited to fashion than function. The most fashionable overalls use lightweight cottons instead of denim or canvas, which are still relegated to workwear. Fashionable work clothes and overalls continued to be sold until today. You can still buy durable work overalls in duck canvas or heavyweight denim, but you'll also find fashionable overalls in fabrics ranging from linen to lightweight denim.

First Overalls Boss

3 - First, the Patent: Levi's versus Lee Jeans

So when exactly did overalls appear? The first patented garment with rivets , which eventually became the iconic Levi's 501 Blue Jean, was patented as overalls by Levi Strauss & Company in 1873. It was one of the first patents for a mass-produced ensemble to exist. But Levi's overalls weren't bib overalls ; they were simply trouser overalls, also known as waisted overalls, worn over underwear.

It wasn't until the 1960s, when baby boomers began to adopt the term "jeans" instead of using "dungarees" or "waist overalls," that Levi's 501s were differentiated from the term " overalls".

Levi's patent

Despite the patent filed in 1873, Levi Strauss & Company was not the original inventor of the suspender overalls. The first mass-produced bib overalls were actually patented and produced by Lee Jeans in 1921. Bib overalls were made before this patent by companies such as Carhartt , but Lee Jeans was able to patent the style first. These patents, however, appeared long after overalls were worn on a regular basis.

First Levi's Dungarees

4 - Denim, Race and Social Class

There is no proof of the existence of a single inventor of suspender overalls and no precise date of their appearance . There is evidence that overalls were in use as early as the late 1700s as denim protective clothing and were regularly worn by slaves . Denim was used partly because the material was sturdy, and partly because it contrasted sharply with the linen suits and lace parasols of plantation families.

In addition to durability and practicality, denim overalls were used to visually delineate race and social class . After the Civil War ended and the Emancipation Proclamation made chattel slavery illegal in the Confederate States, sharecropping became the new norm. Denim overalls were regularly worn by sharecroppers , which perpetuated the negative perception that denim overalls were for black Americans and poor white Americans.

In the 1960s, civil rights activists used denim overalls – still strongly associated with sharecropping – to symbolize how little progress had been made since reconstruction. At first, civil rights activists wore overalls for practicality — they were tired of fixing tears from attack dogs and high-pressure lances, and denim could stand up to abuse. However, the wearing of denim overalls in protest was not fully implemented by activists.

The politics of respect - the idea that black protesters should be well cut and dressed in their Sunday attire - has driven a wedge between activists. It was thought that protesting well-dressed would elicit a more positive reaction from white oppressors. However, being well dressed was not just a way to protest against white supremacy. Showing up well-dressed was a survival tactic adopted by blacks in an attempt to deter white supremacists from using violence in their daily lives, and thus extended to tactics used during protests. Activists used both modalities of dress – suit and denim overalls – to appeal to their target audience.

Denim overalls are not just a symbolic expression. By donning denim overalls, activists were able to reach out to working-class black communities to help them register to vote, which at that time could cost you your life if you voted as black. By wearing overalls, activists were able to reach these communities and overcome the class divide that those who wore moccasins could not.

Denim was the look of the civil rights movement that deeply symbolized the black struggle for freedom . Wearing denim was a direct and visible protest against white supremacy. The subsequent introduction of denim into the mainstream, marketed as a youthful, fresh, and relaxed look, intentionally erased the sense and discrimination faced by civil rights activists who wore denim overalls. "The trucker coat that Levi's introduced in the '60s, at the height of the hippie movement, was a throwback to the denim jacket style that working class and sharecroppers had worn for decades," says James Sullivan. What we now consider the classic Levi's jacket was introduced as a new style in 1962, but poor sharecroppers in the Deep South had been wearing it for decades. "The sharecroppers' connection to the rural, rural working class inspired, in part, the all-denim, top-down look that the hippies came to wear.

Will Smith in Overalls 1970

5 - Overalls are Trendy today!

The popularity of overalls has gone up and down over the years. What do you imagine when you think of overalls? For many of us, we think of hippies who wore bell-bottomed overalls and 1990s rappers who wore overalls with a single strap attached. Overalls have not only accompanied us for decades, but also for centuries. They have inspired countless other garments such as jumpsuits, dungarees and even our beloved jeans. They have been adapted for industry, casual wear, military use, cold weather sports and activism, and have recently made a comeback with many styles and patterns reminiscent of the original vintage designs. Right now, you can see dungarees inspired by 1930s designs and dungarees with modern silhouettes and flowing linens walking down the same street.

The dungarees are a garment that is constantly evolving to meet the demands and aesthetics of each generation that wears it. Who will wear them next?

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