All about overalls

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A bib-and-brace denim overall

An overall, over all, bib-and-brace overalls, or dungarees, is a type of garment which is usually used as protective clothing when working. Some people call an overall a "pair of overalls" by analogy with "pair of trousers".


The 1989 issue of the Oxford English Dictionary lists:

The word "overall" (as garment):

First in 1792 as "overalls" or "overall trousers" = "trousers worn outside the normal trousers to protect them" (from which the "bib-and-brace" use).

First in 1815 as "overall" = "any outermost coat or cloak", with a long list of examples, which do not show when "overall" also began to mean "boilersuit".

A 1920 advertisement for Over Alls, published in the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees Journal, depicts railway workers adjusting track

The one-piece work overall arrived in 1891-1916, in tough cotton or in linen, to fit over a shirt or vest and trousers. (The cloth cap began to spread through the working class, and some women wore them too.

In the beginning of the 20th century, coveralls came in as protective garments for mechanics in the USA.

Women wore overalls in factories in England during the First World War in 1916.

Rules were implemented in match factories: "Suitable overalls are required for all workers employed in the phosphorus process, except for people who only put the matches in boxes".

During the Spanish Civil War, the Communist soldiers used boilersuits as their uniform. Early aeronauts also wore specially designed one-piece suits.

In the 1930s, overalls were used as comfortable children's clothes.

Boy in overalls

After World War II, many athletes also utilised the advantages of overalls.

Overalls have sometimes been items of fashion, in the 1960s and 1970s.

The fashion world began to sell one-piece overalls as high-quality leisure wear. Ski-overalls were and still are especially popular together with ski jackets. Their advantage over conventional pants is that in the case of a minor fall, there is a smaller chance of snow being driven through gaps between the outer garments.


Construction worker wearing an overall

These are trousers with an attached front patch that covers the stomach but leaves the chest uncovered and has shoulder straps. Often people use the word "overall" for the bib type garment only and not for a boilersuit. In the USA, boilersuits are also called "coveralls" to distinguish them from the bib-type overall.

Bib overalls are usually made of denim and often have riveted pockets, similar to those on jeans. Bib overalls have long been associated with rural men and boys in the U.S. South and Midwest, especially farmers and railroad workers. They are often worn with no shirt at all in warmer weather usually by teenage boys. These workers seldom wear neckties because of the inherent safety risk it would bring. All over America in modern times, painters, farmers, certain factory workers, some train locomotive engineers, carpenters and other tradesmen or workmen often wear overalls as protective overgarments. Since the 1960s, different colours and patterns of bib overalls have been increasingly worn by young people of both sexes, often with one of the straps worn loose or unfastened along the side and under the arm. The bib overalls fashion trend among American youth culture peaked in the latter half of the 1970s, and again for females in the late 1990s.

In the 20th century, overalls were also sometimes worn as casual clothes, due to their comfort, handiness and durability. Overalls are also made in corduroy in addition to denim, and come in many styles.


The term "dungaree" was associated with a coarse undyed calico fabric that was made and sold in a region near Dongari Killa (also called Fort George) in Bombay (now Mumbai) in India. The cloth was cheap and often poorly woven. As such, it was used by the poorer classes for clothing and by various navies as a sail cloth. Sailors often re-used old sails to make clothes. In time, the name of the cloth came to also mean an item of clothing made out of it.

In British English such a bib type overall are usually called a pair of dungarees.

In the U.S., carpenter jeans are often referred to as dungarees.


In the British Army, male Officers' mess dress in most regiments includes a pair of very tight wool trousers which extend above the waist and are worn with braces.

The first use of overalls as part of a military uniform was by the Americans. In fact, the earliest written reference to "overalls" in the English language dates to 1776 in the uniform regulations of various American militia units organized to fight in the American Revolution.


Front view of shortalls in the Train Engineer style, see back view

Shortalls are a type of overalls in which the legs of the garment resemble those of shorts. The word is a contraction of these two words. They are often worn during the summer. Also seen now are skirtalls which are like shortalls except that the bottom of the garment resembles a skirt. Sometimes it could be capri overalls which are a type of overalls whose legs are like the legs of capri pants.

Shortalls designed for toddlers often have crotch and leg snaps to facilitate diaper changes.


Salopettes for a motorcycle driver

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