Overalls & Dungarees – Remember Those?

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Nineties Overalls and Dungarees

Last Updated on September 6, 2020

When talking about 90s fashion and the most iconic elements, dungarees have to be among the first things we address. It’s hard to find a more 90s garment than the good ol’ pair of overalls.

Everyone wore them, from us stumbling into kindergarten to your favourite stars on TV, so it only makes sense to pay them proper tribute. Our faves for when we want to look like the Olsen twins, TLC, or Will Smith?

Acid wash dungarees

What’s more 90s than acid wash? It was the only kind of denim that mattered, whether we’re talking about denim jackets, jeans, or overalls.

A holdover from the 80s, acid wash was the grungier, more undone face of denim, that was less perfect and preppy. Denim is casual by nature, but we all know there’s a difference between a proper pair of true blues and a pair of acid wash punk dungarees.

Especially paired with neon t-shirts, or even better – crop-tops – the perennial dungarees were made just a little bit cooler with a lil’ bit of an acid wash treatment.

Cartoon characters

Something that’s thankfully made the rounds and went back to being cool again is featuring cartoon characters on our clothes, especially when it’s pins and patches on a pair of denim dungarees.

The more retro, the better! Not trying to influence you, but I’m just saying – there’s a huge Sailor Moon revival going on, and some cool pins from Etsy would make a great add-on for dungarees. Of course, if you’re too cool for that girly stuff, perhaps you’d be more at home in the company of the angry girls from the 90s, like Daria or Emily the Strange.

Corduroy

If your dungarees weren’t denim when you were a kid, then they were corduroy. We all hated them back then (or was that just me?), but you’ve gotta admit, they’re pretty cool. Especially when it’s the dead of winter and you’re freezing your stems off, corduroy is nice, plushy, and warm, while also being fashionable.

Burgundy is my fave, but you can also opt for the classic black, dark green, or that goddamn Millennial pink we’ve been seeing everywhere. Not saying I’ve bought several corduroy pieces in that exact shade, just saying that you might be tempted. And I’d understand – I’m basic af, too.  

Cut off

If cut off jean shorts (please don’t call them “jorts”, that word is gross) are a thing, then surely we can cut off our overalls, too. It’s the perfect summer staple, especially if you live in chilly places where “summer” is more of an idea, rather than a real season (Canada and the UK, what’s up?).

The coolest part is that you absolutely don’t need to go out and buy a new pair. Just take your old pair – the one that’s loose in the knees – and literally cut them off for the most authentic look. Or get a pair second hand and hack those off – then you’ll literally have a 90s pair of cut off dungarees.

Mini

Can’t have overalls in the summer, unless they’re teeny tiny, short, and mini.Again, think of just regular denim cut offs, and you can do the same to dungarees. Cut them off as short as you want, and I’ve got a cheeky tip for you, too – cut them off a bit longer and then just roll them up. That leaves you a bit of room to play with and it’s like having two pairs of dungarees – a shorter one and a longer one.

Distressed

Remember when I was saying acid wash was the less prim and proper jean? Well, distressing works as sort of the same type of social signalling. It says “I’m not like regular girls, I’m a cool/alternative/bad girl!” in that annoying, Valley Girl accent.

No, but seriously now, distressing can add a cool element of visual interest to plain denim, and you can do it anywhere on a pair of overalls, but especially towards the edges. So, if you were to cut off a pair of dungarees, you can DIY distress the edges, but you can also do that to the straps for an extra authentic look.

For summer

I said it before and I’ll say it again – dungarees can be excellent for summer, as long as you don’t live somewhere where it’s scorching. If you do, I’d either go for an easy, breezy fabric, like linen, or avoid them altogether. The intense crotch and back sweat is real, kids.

Overalls can be a cute and easy option because it’s just one piece that you can throw on over any type of top, really, depending on occasion: Plain white t-shirt? Check! White, floaty, peasant shirt? Check!

Oversized

Okay, but do you know how the cool kids wear overalls? Like with everything else, oversized is the way to go. A word of caution here, though – truthfully, not everyone will be able to pull them off. TLC looked cool, but some of us may have looked like a toddler wearing hand-me-downs and a diaper…you have been warned.

Plus size

Who says big girls can’t wear overalls? They can be an exceptional choice if you’re a plus size gal, because they’re comfortable, flattering, and they come with built-in extra tummy space. What’s not to like about that???

You can go for a material that’s a bit thinner and more stretchy if you’re concerned about fit and comfort, or a sturdier denim or thicker fabric if you want a more structured pair that sucks you in.

Plaid

You can’t get away from the plaid, I’m afraid it’s going to follow you on anything 90s-related. Can’t really even hate on it, really. Want an easy way to make dungarees punk? Get a plaid pair, and add a chain or some spikes. You’ve suddenly turned into Gwen Stefani.

Add Docs to complete the look, or any other fugly shoes of your choice.

Patchwork

Perfection is boring and everything looks a little bit more interesting when it’s all patched up. Or at least, that seems to be the though process behind patchwork dungarees.

Patches, along with pins, drawings, rips, distressing, and graffiti, were the marks of a teen wanting to stand out, and stand out, we did, albeit not always for the right reasons.

You can absolutely make patchwork overalls work, as long as you keep everything else cool – a leather jacket, and no bum bags.

R&B

What the hell are R&B dungarees, anyway? Well, exactly what it says on the tin – overalls that R&B artists tended to wear. That means baggy, and typically, matching, or at least coordinating with the other members in the group.

If you want some styling inspo, look no further than TLC, or even really vintage Destiny’s Child – yes, I’ve seen Beyonce in a pair of overalls, with a Tommy bandeau top, which you can Google, and you’re welcome.

Spray paint / graffiti / airbrushed

Graffiti was HUGE in the 90s, and graffiti artists were prominent. More importantly, that “street” quality trickled down into our ho-hum lives and we integrated it to the best of our abilities – by awkwardly spray painting our dungarees, or buying airbrushed clothes.

Did they ever actually look good? Well, it depended on your artistic capabilities. If you were smart, you paid the kid who knew how to do graffiti to do it for you. If you were me…you tried to spray paint your name and ended up with weird splotches.

You can do better, though. Pair these with a plain white t-shirt so your original design can speak for itself.

Wide leg

Skinny jeans are great and all and while disco pants were the king and queen of bottoms for a hot minute there, wide leg pants are still the best pants. Yep, even dungarees.

Allow me to tell you why: wide leg pants are comfier, breezier, easier to put on and take off (you’ll never do the Skinny Jeans Dance in these), and they make so much more of a statement. They’re a whole mood, you know? Just give them a try, you won’t be sorry.

What's the difference between dungarees and jeans?
Dungarees have straps and a bib. Jeans are denim styled trousers. They both originate from work clothes and they’re a staple in any persons wardrobe.

White denim

White denim is where it’s at this year for all things denim, and that includes overalls. A gal loves herself a pair of white jeans, but if you want to stand out from all the Basic Beckys that will be rocking their white kickflair cropped jeans this summer, a frayed pair of white dungarees will do it for you.

Especially with a white shirt underneath, or a ultra feminine broderie Anglaise blouse, it’s going to make for a rockin’ outfit that everybody will envy. Plus, it’ll go great with those 90s chunky sneakers the kids have (unfortunately for them) been wearing. Wait ‘till a couple of years go by and they realise they’re not the Spice Girls…

Dungarees may not always be the most practical option (they can get kinda tight in the crotch when you sit down), but they’re cool af. What kind of 90s-inspired overalls will you be rocking?

Read: Popular Jeans Trends of the 90s