Overalls of my dreams

While I was making my latest pair of jeans, I hatched another idea that I started working on slowly: a pair of overalls. And boooooy am I ever happy with them!

It started like this. I really wanted to try a scooped out front pocket on a pair of 1950s style jeans. I mentioned that dilemma in my last jeans post of doing the slash pockets and some gaping. So while I was in a jeans mood, I wanted to try scooped pockets (like my red twill pants).

I had some lightweight black Cone Mills denim I’d be hoarding for years, back from when I bought my very first Ginger jeans kit. I’m not generally a fan of black jeans but this is almost like a charcoal, and a nice light weight (10 oz stretch). I knew it would be great with white topstitching. So I thought hey, why don’t I make black jeans! But then for some reason, I had the idea to do overalls. I used to loooove wearing vintage style overalls, several years ago.

For awhile, I thought I’d make them convertible, so they could be worn as jeans or overalls. Then I realized that meant they’d need to not have belt loops: jeans without belt loops just aren’t jeans to me, and overalls with belt loops look weird to me. So that idea was out. I decided to make straight up overalls, instead. Et voila!

The jeans part was easy. I just used the same pattern as my last pair, but with the transferred fit changes I made during basting. The thighs ended up feeling a bit tighter than my other pair, but after one wearing they’re loosening up already, so I was right to leave them be and not let the seam allowance out any.

And of course I changed the front slash pockets to scooped out pockets, which started me on this journey in the first place. Yes, that does resolve the pocket gaping issue that annoys me, so I’ll use this variation on front pockets on this style of jeans going forward. Woo hoo.

To turn them into overalls, I needed a bib and straps. I knew the style of bib I wanted. Only attached at the front. Hidden zipper in the pocket to close them. I know from my past history with vintage-style overalls that I cannot stand having to unbutton overalls at the side. If I’m in control of how they close, no thank you!!! Plus that meant I literally just needed to add a bib and straps to a jeans pattern I already had nailed down, with no back sides or anything like that.

I didn’t know precisely how I wanted the bib to be shaped, but I used photos of vintage pairs for ideas. Narrower at the top, with some kind of pocket on the bib. And I figured I’d throw a couple of small waist darts in for better shaping.

Some overalls I’ve seen photos of or owned didn’t have the nicest facings in the world at the top of the bib… sometimes just left loose at the bottom, to get all wrinkled up in the wash so you have to press them flat again. I spied a solution in this Sears catalog pair from Spring 1953. See that lower line of topstitching about an inch down from the top of the bib? Surely that was to capture the bottom edge of a facing.

And even if it wasn’t, that’s what I did for mine! I made  a separate facing piece so that I could very tidily turn in the corners, and I absolutely love how nice and neat it looks from the inside. Not just simply sides turned in and top turned down, but sides turned in and facing turned down over the sides.

The raw edge of the facing folds up under the entire width, so that it’s 3 layers of denim at the facing. I also interfaced the facing. Why all that work? Those strap buttons take a lot of stress when you move around and sit and squat and such, and I wanted the facing to be reinforced well. Mission accomplished.

The width of the facing (and thus placement of the lower line of topstitching) I determined based on the diameter of the button, so that it would be placed in the center of the facing but not too close to the upper edge.

When I drafted (using the term kind of loosely) the bib, I did a muslin first and attached it to the bottom unit when I basted them to check the fit. (On record: this was the ONLY I’ve ever basted jeans legs together and not made any changes after basting. ONLY. TIME.) But I added the facing idea later on, which ended up making the whole bib taller because I forgot to account for the seam allowance I’d initially added at the top. So when I basted the real bib onto the jeans, I decided it needed to be a lot shorter, but also narrower at the top. I had to re-make the bib entirely, but I’m glad I did as the size and scale compared to the rest of the overalls is just perfect now! And when I move my arms towards the center of my body, the top of the bib doesn’t gape, which it did before I narrowed the whole top about 1 1/4″.

Definitely worth the extra trouble to make a second bib!

My idea for the bib pocket? I was just trying to kind of mirror the back pocket shape a bit…

But for the bib, I wanted a big pocket to stick pens and small tools and the like in. So it’s one big pocket, topstitched into 3 narrower pockets. I like how it turned out! Depending on if I find I actually use the pockets a lot, I may go back and bar tack between the 3 pockets, too. That was my original idea but I didn’t want to have bar tack overkill.

And last but not least, the width of the bib at the bottom is determined by the scoop of the pockets, so it follows basically right up from the curved edge of the pocket. I just measured the front leg pieces minus the seam allowances to get that right and of course because nothing ever comes out exaaaactly, took the tiny bit extra width I accidentally had into the front darts. Which you can’t really see in any of the photos, but are basically below the outer edge of the bib pocket.

While I don’t typically fully interface waistbands for jeans, I did in this case, because I figured the stress points of the bib and straps wouldn’t mind a little extra support, especially as this was a stretch denim. So I interfaced both the waistband and the waistband facing fully, but with a knit tricot interfacing (i.e. stretch interfacing) so it would still have give. (That interfacing is amazing by the way, I use it often if I want a tad of support but don’t want to change the stretch or hand of fabric.)

Now how do you construct overalls like this? I had to figure it out. It’s actually really easy! Normally with jeans or any trousers, I construct about like so (skipping all the minor details):

  • sew front pockets, sew back yoke to legs
  • sew center back and center front seams
  • sew inseam, then sew side seams
  • sew waistband facing to waistband
  • sew waistband onto waist of jeans
  • sew waistband shut by topstitching all around

For jeans I sew a two-piece waistband by sewing the upper seam together first, press under the seam allowance on the facing, then sew the waistband onto the pants.

For the overalls, I did:

  • sew front pockets, sew back yoke to legs
  • sew center back and center front seams
  • sew inseam, then sew side seams
  • sew waistband to waist of overalls
  • baste straps and bib to top of waistband
  • sew waistband facing to top of waistband (enclosing raw edge of straps and bib inside seam)
  • sew waistband shut by topstitching all around

Main difference being the waistband construction. I sewed only the outer waistband onto the legs unit. Then I basted on the straps and bib, tested the positioning, and then sewed the waistband facing onto the waistband, sandwiching the bib and the straps in that seam. Really quite easy! Then I pinned the facing into position and closed the whole thing up with topstitching like normal.

Because I initially thought these would be fun to wear for gardening (spoiler alert: they kind of aren’t as the straps are annoying every time I bend over), I went with a floral waistband facing. 🙂

Since these don’t have belt loops I couldn’t hide the beginning/ending of my waistband topstitching like I do with jeans, so I started and ended on the underlap side which is hidden in the pocket.

The straps get sewn to the waistband at a small angle so that they can cross on my back without getting lumpy or bumpy below the crossing point. And lest you think I’m always on the mark with attention to detail, I had to re-photograph the back photos of me wearing these as I was wearing them with one strap twisted. Ha ha! #overallslife

Anywhere I folded an edge in twice and topstitched, I interfaced for added stability. And lo, was there a lot of that. Top edge of back pockets, curved edge of front pockets, side edges of bib, facing for the top of the bib, top edge of the bib pocket, the loooong edges of the straps.

You know I love topstitching. Damn though, there was SO MUCH topstitching for these! I mean there’s a lot on jeans but somehow it felt like I spent days topstitching. I think I went through nearly 2 bobbins of thread before I’d barely even gotten to assembly.

The straps are a smidge over 1 1/2″ wide. The Dritz buckle kit I used itself calls for 1 1/4″ straps but here’s the deal. Those kits set you up to fail if you’re anal-retentive like me. I originally bought the kit meant for 1 5/8″ straps, but when I made a test strap that width, there was so much exposed metal underneath! It looked terrible. I mean yeah, this is all personal preference, but I want the strap to fill up the space of the buckle entirely. It took nearly a 2″ strap to do that, and I felt they looked a bit too wide for me. So I went with the next smaller buckle size, and I’m very pleased with the result. So note to self: make the straps bigger than the kit calls for, so you don’t see the metal bar underneath the straps.

I didn’t use the accompanying Dritz buttons for the straps as I felt they were a bit cheap feeling compared to the nice nickel ones I have from WAWAK. I tested to make sure the buckle worked with them first. And I used the same button to close the overalls, too.

So how are they to wear? Fun!! I feel really cute and kicky in these.

I stopped wearing overalls several years ago, when I migrated away from 1940s styles, because all of them had much wider legs than I grew to like on me. But in all my jean making in recent years, it never really occurred to me that I could enjoy overalls again by making my own! And of course since I made them, they fit and look exactly the way I want them to. No altering straps. No hemming too-long legs. No gaping bib. No moving buttons to make them fit right. No fussy wrinkled facing. No bib pocket so small you can’t put anything in it. No closing up with multiple buttons.

Sewing my own, my way, is so much better!

outfit details

overalls – made by me
vintage Western shirt – misc.
Bakelite earrings – misc.
shoes – Minnetonka

Filed: Sewing, Vintage Wardrobe

Tagged: , , ,

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Golly, 32 Comments!

  • These are AMAZING and you look AMAZING. I’m taking a lot of notes!

    Reply

  • You sewing skills are impeccable. I noticed the way the bib lines up with the pockets before I read your post, that detail makes the overalls. I wish I had a pair that were that fabulous, they look amazing on you!

    Reply

    • Thank you! I’ve seen some where the bib is slightly narrower than the line of the pocket, but decided I like how it looks this way best, very visually pleasing to me, ha ha.

      Reply

  • Heidi Sue Wallace April 5, 2018 at 9:36am

    Those overalls are fantastic and the fit is spot on! Tasha, you are inspiring me! I have a pair of overalls that I love because they are the perfect amount of worn in/out…but the fit isn’t great. Seeing this blog post gave me courage to tackle altering them. Thank you!

    Reply

  • Raesha de Ruiter Zylker April 5, 2018 at 10:59am

    These are stunning!!! And you look stunning in them!!!!!!!

    Reply

  • You make overalls unbelievably sexy Tasha! Your idea to make facings for the bib was inspired and I took mental note of that (not that I’ll be making myself a pair any time soon – this is a style that definitely would NOT look good on my busty body 🙂 ) but the idea of creating facings in all sorts of places is something I’ve been playing with (right now I’m making a facings for a sleeveless top where I think the best finish is an all-in-one facing). The finishing on your jeans is impeccable as always.

    Reply

    • Thank you! I usually hate facings on things like blouses and dresses, unless an all-in-one is appropriate (I tried one last year on a somewhat sheer top but it looked awful so I had to scrap it). But in this case, it was the perfect way to handle the top of the bib!

      Reply

  • Oh ! j’adore. Tu es vraiment ravissante dans cette tenue. J’aimerais tant retrouver mon look rétro.

    Reply

  • Janice Appleton April 5, 2018 at 5:17pm

    You have made a lovely job of sewing these overalls and they look so good on you. Congratulations on such a successful project

    Reply

  • Marie Roche April 5, 2018 at 5:22pm

    Absolutely stunning! These fit you so well, you know they look a bit classy. I know they are overalls but the fit is so good, the construction flawless, definitely a classy garment.

    Marie

    Reply

  • What they all said! I think you are Wonder Woman!

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  • These. Are. Amazing!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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  • I think these are the best overalls I have ever seen. So many neat features. I too, like PsychicSewerKathleen, had rejected overalls as unflattering for busty women, but I’m thinking the bust shaping darts you included may make all the difference.

    Reply

    • Thank you! I’m pretty busty too and I do think the waist darts help a bit! And probably the height of the bib makes a big difference in if it’s flattering or not. I definitely had to fuss with that until I was happy with how it looked on me.

      Reply

  • These are SO ADORABLE! I recently bought the Simplicity overalls/pants pattern just to use the pants part, but you’re inspiring me to make actual overalls.

    Reply

  • Stina Ljung April 6, 2018 at 1:48pm

    You marvellous, marvellous woman. These are just perfect.

    Reply

  • These are absolutely perfect!! Love them!!

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  • Superb overalls! 🙂

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  • As I read your post, I had a sort of epiphany, looking at your photos and ingesting the process you used for making the overalls, about sewing as creating. You’re so … INVESTED in what you make; you take the time to address the kind of details that make the difference between nice and knockout.

    I haven’t sewn for myself for quite a while, but plan to start again. I’ve made some nice things, and now I’m learning from you how to go beyond, to make things I’ll be EXCITED to wear. Thank you so much for sharing your creative process! It’s really inspiring.

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  • These are the holy grail of overalls! Absolute perfection! Thankyou so much for sharing the process ❤️

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  • I love these so much!
    I have had some curdoroy set aside for overalls for ages and I never got around to making them but you make me want to get on it right now !
    Also, I was wondering the other day if your in-pocket zipper technique would work for overalls to avoid the side button placket… Obviously it does!
    have a great day!

    Cynthia

    Reply

  • Those are cute. I wish i could make stuff like that. I miss wearing overalls. What would you charge if i wanted a pair? Anyways, good job!

    Reply

  • Delicia Ambrosino June 3, 2018 at 7:45am

    Hi Tasha! I absolutely love your expertise on retro sewing……..and I just found you today on Sewing It Up !! I love sewing but, admittedly, nothing I make comes out looking professionally done like yours. I love retro, however, I am a very large woman. An American women’s plus size 26/28 {depending on cut} with what I call the Three B’s- Big Boobs, Big Belly, and Big Butt. Because of my size most retro doesn’t look all that great on me….if I can even find RTW retro in my size which let me tell you is no easy task. When I do the cost is prohibitive to my budget.
    One of the things I really want to learn is how to make bra’s as most bras don’t fit correctly. I’d especially like to learn how to make Bullet Bra’s.
    Anyway, I do envy and appreciate your talent very much. Thank you so much for giving all of us the gift of your time and experience.
    Sincerely,
    Delicia {“D” for short}

    Reply

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