No matter when you were born or what your personal style may be, there’s a good chance that you’ve worn overalls at least once. Maybe you put them on as workwear to do a tough job. Possibly, you wore them in the 1990s with one strap hanging down and a baggy T-shirt underneath. You may have even worn them recently as a high-fashion look. But when you wore them…were you wearing the right size? Should overalls fit baggy? How should they fit? If you can’t answer the question, you definitely aren’t styling your overalls the right way.
Overalls, a History
Aren’t overalls sort of weird, really? Like, who came up with the idea to extend a pair of pants up to the chest and hold it onto the rest of the body with two straps that turn into one strap on the back of the design? If you weren’t used to seeing overalls all the time, you’d probably think they were sort of strange, too. Imagine what people thought the very first time they saw overalls. It turns out, that happened a really, really long time ago.
No one knows exactly who designed overalls or what they were thinking that day, but it is known that overalls first appeared on British soldiers in the 1750s. Made to be durable, the overalls added an extra layer of protection to uniforms. It was a perfect garment for protecting their clothes while they performed the dirtiest jobs, such as mucking out horse stalls.
As it turns out, the overalls worn by the soldiers were just the thing for farmers, too. Intentionally made to be durable and somewhat loose, the overalls easily slipped on over clothing. This kept the other clothing cleaner, as the overalls could take the brunt of the wear and dirt that came with doing tough jobs. Overalls even gained attention an ocean away in the U.S., where they became popular with farmers, miners and workers who had to turn their hands to the hardest tasks.
These early overalls were not well made because they were made quickly by the people who needed them, made to be worn hard and tossed out later. They were simple designs that didn’t fit well, basically just cut out of the toughest fabric that happened to be available at the time. After all, it was just work clothing.
Then, a retail store owner and a tailor went to take out a patent in the 1870s on a new design for work pants. This simple act changed everything in the fashion world. Those work pants they created? You probably know them as blue jeans. One of the men taking out that patent was a guy named Levi Strauss, whose name would end up being linked to blue jeans from that day to this day. The name Levi is still synonymous with blue jeans.
Along with selling the work pants that took the world by storm and became the most popular fashion staple of modern style, Levi Strauss spread denim to the U.S. The tough fabric came from Europe but in Strauss’s hands, it became an American fashion staple. The fabric that was so popular for blue jeans was used to create overalls…and as they say, the rest is history.
Overalls became even more popular as workwear. They were discovered by ranchers and soon enough, moved out of rural environments and onto factory floors. During the World Wars, when women filled the factory jobs previously taken by men, overalls became popular workwear for both genders. Osh Kosh B’Gosh began making overalls for children in the early 1900s and now they had tough playwear of their own.
For around 100 years, overalls were go-to workwear for railroad conductors, farmers, ranchers, miners and people with all sorts of tough jobs. But they weren’t really streetwear through all these decades, spending most of their time getting dirty in factories and harsh workplaces. That is…until overalls exploded onto the fashion scene in a really big way.
Overalls were seen rarely as city streetwear in the 1960s, appearing sometimes as protest fashion during that particularly turbulent decade, but it was in the 1980s that overalls really became hip. Hot recording artists in the rap industry began wearing brightly-colored overalls in big, baggy sizes, often paired with large sneakers, oversized T-shirts and baseball caps. And of course, you had to leave one strap undone. It was the look to have and soon, absolutely everyone had it.
But once everyone had the new hot look for overalls, celebs started playing around with overalls style on their own and defining their own way to wear this traditional piece of fashion. Overalls had made the leap into popular fashion and clothing designers quickly noticed. They began to play around with their own overall designs, creating the classic silhouette in a huge variety of materials, patterns and colors. This also gave rise to many different overall styles and types of fits.
It began a whole new life for overalls but even with all the new styles, denim overalls never left the style scene. Hot celebs still strut around in them and post photos of themselves wearing them. But how do those A-listers make overalls look so amazing? How should overalls actually fit your body so you can get the look you want?
Should Overalls Fit Baggy?
Are overalls supposed to be baggy? According to their original history, yes! Overalls were always styled to be a bit baggy and fit sort of large around the body because they were designed to go over other clothing. Overalls ought to be a little baggy so that you can move comfortably, twist around and bend down, squat and flex and reach. After all, overalls aren’t made to fit you like jeans, even when they’re made with denim. If overalls are too tight anywhere, your movements could be restricted everywhere.
However, you don’t want your overalls to be too baggy. Clothing that is too loose is actually a hazard. It can get caught on furnishings and items, so that you end up hung up on something and potentially knocking stuff over simply by moving around. You could also end up injuring yourself. And seriously, do you want to have to explain it to people if you get a visible injury because you were wearing overalls that were too baggy? Probably not.
If overalls are too tight, they will restrict your movements. Mostly, you want to make sure the overalls fit in the waist and that they don’t pull at your groin. As long as they fit here, you should be able to move freely and comfortably.
How Should Overalls Fit?
How should your overalls fit? Before you can figure out that answer, ask a different question! You’ll never get the right fit if you don’t make a few decisions first.
What will you be doing in them? Are these overalls for style or for work? Are you going to wear them while hiking in the woods or cleaning the house or will you be wearing them while enjoying a night out with friends? You can always make things easier on yourself by getting some overalls for work and some for style. Just remember that the two types ought to fit differently.
If you’re going to be working in your overalls, like one of those farmers from the 1880s, you definitely want to look for a slightly larger fit. The overalls should be somewhat baggy if you’re going to wear them to work. Mechanics, painters and other professional people who wear overalls choose to wear them in slightly larger sizes. Overalls need to be baggy to allow room to move freely and to handle all sorts of tough tasks. After all, think about the ways you move while you’re cleaning out your car or working in the garden. You bend, you squat, you reach, you twist. You need to be able to do all of that smoothly in a pair of working overalls.
Working overalls should also be baggy so that they can be worn as a layer, on top of other clothing. This will make overalls invaluable in winter, when you might be wearing a thick sweatshirt and even an extra pair of pants under your overalls. If your overalls aren’t baggy, you’re going to end up being constricted inside all your layers of clothing that you need to stay warm.
If you’re wearing overalls to be stylish and fashionable, you definitely don’t want a fit that’s too baggy. A closer fit will look more stylish unless you’re specifically dressing in a baggy style to re-capture some of the 1980s fashion vibe. For the most part, you want to stick to overalls that fit your body well if you’re going to create a fashionable look. After all, you need something that’s going to flatter your figure and allow your natural shape to show. But knowing the fit you want is only half the problem. Now, you’ll have to figure out how to get it.
The problem with overalls is that they don’t the same way jeans do. You may not be able to buy overalls in the same size as your jeans and if you do, you might notice a huge difference in how the overalls fit your body. Knowing how to size overalls will help you get a pair that fits perfectly every single time.
The waist of overalls is made to be larger than your actual waist and larger than your usual pants waist size, in most traditional designs. The waist of overalls should be 2 to 6 inches larger than your jeans waist size, in fact. Now that might sound like a big difference but this is based on the way overalls are made, which is slightly different than the way other pairs of pants are made. If you’re converting from a woman’s size to a man’s size, it gets even more complicated when you’re trying to size your overalls.
To get an accurate chest measurement for your overall bib, measure around your torso under your arms at the widest, fullest part of your bust. This can be a little bit tricky to do alone because you’ll be bending into strange positions, so get help from a friend if you need it. Otherwise, you can always tie a string or thin ribbon around your bust at the widest point, mark the spot where the ribbon meets and then measure this. Sometimes, a little hack helps.
The inseam measurement is taken at the top of the inner thigh down to the bottom of the ankle. Overalls should end right at the ankle, no longer. If they’re longer, you don’t really have a proper fit. Remember that overalls have adjustable straps. Changing this could fix the length of your overalls. Since overalls tend to run a little bit long, subtract two inches from your inseam to get a length that will be more fitted to your leg length. It sounds counter-productive but because of the way overalls are made, adding two inches to your inseam will end up being just the right leg length.
Not only is it difficult to convert female sizes to male sizes, it’s very confusing to convert European sizes into American sizes. European clothing makers use a different sizing system than their U.S. counterparts, which makes things difficult. For European overalls, go up in the waist size at least 2 inches to get a size that will be more comfortable for you. Adding two inches to the waist turns a European size 32 into an American size 32.
To convert a woman’s size to a man’s size, you want to add 23. For instance, if you wear a women’s size 12, add 23 to know that you’re looking for a 35 or 36-inch waist size in men’s overalls. This is a general sizing rule that isn’t always perfect for everyone, but it can give you a good starting point when you’re looking for overalls to try on so you can get a good idea of what sizes work for you.
Styling a Baggy Fit
Like all fashion, the fit of overalls is up to you. You can wear baggy overalls but this can be difficult to pull off. Try pairing baggy overalls with a fitted top, even a cropped top, to show off a little of your figure and your shape underneath the overalls. You don’t want to pair baggy overalls with a baggy top because this will make you look swamped. You’ll appear to be swimming in fabric and that is not what you want.
Also, keep your accessories small. If you’re opting for a baggy look, don’t overwhelm your frame with large pieces of jewelry. You don’t want to pair big with big. Pair small with big to create a more cohesive, better-matched look all over. Doing lots of big pieces will make you disappear in the middle of your fashion. It’s meant to enhance you, not hide you.
If you’re trying to get a baggier overalls fit to capture a certain style, you may end up with legs that are a little too long. Cuff the bottom of your overalls as needed to shorten the length as needed. Cuffing overalls is a perfectly acceptable fashion choice that you’ll see often on social media.
What to Wear With Baggy Overalls
If you’re trying to style a baggy overall look, there are lots of ways to do it. If you’re off to work or on a hike, slip into work boots or hiking boots. These tough styles not only protect your feet, but they also pair very well with baggy overalls. Sneakers also look great with baggy overalls, even in heavier and embellished sneaker styles.
You can always match baggy overalls to high heels to create a bit of visual contrast. If you’re styling baggy overalls simply for the sake of style, pair this with a short top that fits your form well. If you’re wearing baggy overalls for work, try a T-shirt or a button-up flannel shirt.
Styling a Closer Fit
If you want your overalls to fit a little closer and show off your shape a little bit better, make sure you’re getting a good, form-hugging fit around your waist, hips and backside. Whether you’re wearing skinny-style overalls or something made to be a little looser, such as a boyfriend fit, you want to make sure your overalls are hugging your body in these areas. This is how you style a less baggy, more fashionable fit.
Make sure also that your overalls aren’t fitting well in some places and feeling baggy in others. If you’re going for a more fitted look, try to get overalls that fit your body all over. They don’t have to be skin-scraping and cutting off your circulation but they should sit close to the curves of your body.
What to Wear With Fitted Overalls
There are many ways to style your fitted overalls to create a great overall look that’s highly fashionable.
You can wear many types of tops with fitted overalls, from strapless and cropped designs that hug the torso and show off a lot of curves and skin to looser, peasant blouses that have an airy fit around the body.
Wear sleek shoes that don’t have a lot of weight or bulk on them. Big, heavy sneakers aren’t the best match for fitted overalls. Save your big sneakers for baggy overall styles. High heels, strappy sandals, ballet flats and other sleek shoe styles will serve you well if you’re wearing fitted overalls. Ankle high boots are also a lovely match for fitted overalls.
Think About Fabric
While once overalls were made with denim and other tough materials most of the time, today’s overalls are way different. Now, overalls can be made from anything, even transparent plastic. The way the material fits your body makes a difference in the type of fit you choose for your overalls. After all, pretty much everyone looks good in denim. This is why it’s such a popular material. Denim conforms to the curves of your body over time and even sort of holds everything in place. It’s tough material but it’s also flexible, so it has some giving room to it that allows your body to move as it needs to.
The soft texture of corduroy immediately sets this material apart from all the others. Corduroy is unique for its pile, the “cords” that make it corduroy. Because this is a thick, tough material, it is a favorite for overalls. Corduroy is a warm fabric that will insulate you against cold weather so you will often see this in winter overalls.
Natural cotton material is lightweight and breathable. It is non-irritating on skin, machine washable and it’s been used to make clothing for thousands of years. It’s versatile and can be died in any color and made to just about any thickness. Cotton is used to make denim and canvas, two tough materials that are often seen in overalls. Many lightweight summer styles of overalls are also made in cotton.
Warm fleece material is insulating and moisture-wicking. It keeps skin both dry and warm, which is why it’s a popular material for winter overalls that are designed to be worn in cold weather conditions. Fleece is often made from wool, but it can also be made from synthetic materials and designed to feel like natural wool.
The first-ever material used to make clothing is leather. In those early days, it was always made from animal hide. Today, there are plenty of plant-based leathers and synthetic leathers that mimic the feel of real leather without harming any animals. Leather is a highly durable and flexible material. However, it’s not seen often in overalls because it’s not very breathable. Work overalls can’t be hot and stuffy, after all. You do sometimes see leather in fashion overalls but they are often made in skin-revealing designs that keep the body cool.
Natural linen material is naturally strong and soft. It’s flexible and feels nice on the skin. It’s strong but lightweight and it has a great look to it. But linen isn’t the easiest fabric to take care of, so you wouldn’t use it for work overalls because it will get dirty too easily. Linen is a popular choice for fashion overall styles, however. It hangs well on the body and it has a high-end look to it that stands out.
Polyester is a durable synthetic fabric that’s used to make every type of clothing there is. Polyester washes easily, resists wrinkles well and stands up well to wear and tear. Polyester can be made to feel like many other types of fabric, including silk. You will find polyester in both work clothing and clothing made just for style. It dyes well, it hangs on the body well and it’s found everywhere.
Synthetic fabrics of all types, including rayon, are used to make overalls. These materials can be made to be waterproof, insulating, cooling or moisture-wicking as needed, depending on what the overalls are designed to do and how they’re made to be worn. Overalls can be worn for athletic outdoor activities as well as for work and fashion.
Should Overalls Fit Baggy? How Should They Fit?
How are overalls supposed to fit? That all depends on why you’re wearing them, what you want them to look like and how you’re going to express your personal style. There’s always a little bit of room in fashion for you to express yourself, even when you’re putting on clothes for a strict dress code at work. The way your overalls fit is something that you get to decide. Now, make sure they fit your body perfectly for what you need to do.
Should overalls fit baggy? How should they fit? You’re the only one who knows the answer because you’re the one who has to wear them and you’re the one creating the style that the world sees. Now that you know a little bit more about sizing overalls and how they’re going to fit and feel on your body, along with why you’re going to be wearing them in the first place, you’ve got all the knowledge you need to find just the right pair of overalls for you and style them like a fashion superstar.
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