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Overall overhaul: Familiar classic returns in latest makeover

| Thursday, Aug. 22, 2013, 8:55 p.m.

Overalls have undergone an overhaul and re-entered the fashion world.

“They are definitely out there,” says Gregg Andrews, Nordstrom fashion director. “I see them as part of the evolution of this idea of utility dressing and the onesie-type dressing, just like the jumpsuit.”

What makes them popular is they have a slimmer cut, and many brands offer a more defined shape. You can wear them with the bottoms rolled up and with a feminine shirt underneath to give the look a more modern edge, Andrews says. Most of the original hardware and pockets and style have remained the same, which keeps it vintage.

“Overalls are part of this sought-after authentic look,” Andrews says. “Especially among younger consumers. They want the sense of authenticity, that retro look, but they also want a modern twist so they don't look like they are pitching hay.”

The best way to avoid that look is to stay away from pairing overalls with cowboy boots and a flannel shirt, Andrews says. Opt for a tank top, and choose footwear such as a pair of Chuck Taylors or booties.

“Bringing back overalls is the best throwback since Converse Chucks,” says Jordan Bossman, in-house stylist for Necessary Clothing. “They bring back an overall playful look on street style today. You can dress them down with sneakers or dress them up with pumps and a leather jacket.”

Wearing overalls can be a chance for women to personalize their wardrobe style by giving a little bit of a flirty, feminine edge to offset the masculine feeling sometimes associated with wearing overalls, Andrews says.

Stay away from pairing them with a too-high heel, a hat and lots of bangles, because that might look like you are trying a bit too hard, he says.

“You want it to look like it's effortless,” Andrews says.

Overalls are a cool classic that make an appearance in and out of fashion over the decades, says Gwendolyn Covington, Zappos style editor.

In the 1970s, it was all about the snug-fitting, bell-bottom overall for men and women, she says. In the 1990s, they showed up again, but this time with a loose-fitting, slouchy silhouette. Today, overalls tend to have a loose fit at the top and waist area but have a skinnier, slim fit in the leg.

“The best length for overalls is really the length that you choose and that makes you most comfortable,” Covington says. “There are short overalls, hitting mid-thigh, that can be paired with a great pair of moto-combat boots. Or, you can choose the traditional to-the-ankle length with a sexy, single soled bright pump. You really can't go wrong.”

Traditional overalls are done in denim, and now they are available in denim washes, including various shades of black and white.

Overalls are offered in an array of fabrics, from leather to cords to chambray to light cottons. You can find them in denim and eccentric printed fabrics. They are available in jerseys with trouser bottoms, too.

Another big trend is the distressed look, Covington says. The overalls are thrashed, frayed, nailed, bleached, patched and made to have a vintage, rough-around-the-edges feel.

Overalls should be worn casually — not to the office, Andrews says. Their popularity has come because they are a nice alternative to skin-tight jeans and can elongate the leg and flatter most figures, he says. They also fit better than a jumpsuit because of the adjustable straps.

Overalls are a continuation of the spirit of Americana dressing that is popular across all of today's fashions, he says.

“They definitely aren't the overalls you usually see in the cornfield,” Andrews says. “They have a definite shape to them, but the latest styles still have the same authentic details with the clasps and pockets. ”

JoAnne Klimovich Harrop is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at or 412-320-7889.

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