This summer, the list of dungaree converts reads like a who’s who of the A-List fashion world. From Rihanna’s denim dungarees and black mesh bra combo to Daisy Lowe’s cut-off take on the trend, Alexa Chung’s flirty and feminine dungaree dress to Cressida Bonas’ distressed, rolled-up pair, everyone who’s anyone has been embracing the archetypal 1990s trend this summer. Originally associated with manual labourers’ overalls for their practicality and hardwearing nature, dungarees are the latest relic from the past to have been transformed in to one of summer’s most iconic trends. Yet, this isn’t the first time the labourers’ uniform has reigned supreme over young style.
Did you know that dungarees were predominantly used in rural America as a protective garment for slaves, farmers, railroad engineers, and mechanics? They were cheap, ill-fitting, made of rough yet durable cloth and carried a heavy stigma. It was only in 1916, when the First World War forced women from their homes and in to the factories, that dungarees became an acceptable choice of attire for females. Far from being merely another fashion fad – in vogue today and out of the window tomorrow – denim dungarees remain an enduring symbol for the manual labour workforce. Their appeal is such that they became the focus of fashion trends in the ’60s, ’70s, and ’90s. And now, again, in the twenty-first century.
A stark contrast can be drawn between the factory working dungaree-wearers of the past and the fashion connoisseurs who advocate the trend today. In this way, a pair of denim dungarees is more than just a playful fashion statement; it can come to represent a harking back and a respect for the simpler and more rural times of our ancestors. This is very fitting in a world where young adults and teenagers are trapped in concrete jungles across the country. The beauty and sensitivity of a lifestyle in the great outdoors, encapsulated in a pair of much-loved dungarees, is something to be appreciated and admired. Moreover, as Cressida Bonas and Alexa Chung have found in the heat of this summer, dungarees are a practical response to time spent increasingly outside: exactly what they were originally designed for.
The enduring mystery of dungarees is exactly why they have the ability to recur time and again on the fashion scene. In the early 1980s, Dexy’s Midnight Runners made an appearance in denim dungarees in their video for Come On Eileen and re-injected vitality into dungaree-fashion, promoting a whole new look centring around this playful and practical garment. It is clear that, regardless of decade or destination, dungarees always look playful and sweet. Conjuring up connotations of jollity and playtime, denim dungarees are perfect for summer vibes. They appeal to all tastes as they are enhanced by different colours and styles: long-legged, short shorts, ripped, stone-washed, dark denim, or even white… the possibilities are endless! Plus, dungarees are extremely practical as a no-fuss, outfit in one. They are popular in the way that playsuits used to be and they support the wearer with a plethora of pockets – excellent for carefree summer days or festivals. Owing to their versatility, dungarees can be worn on a variety of occasions. A friend once told me proudly of her coining of ‘Dunga Mondays’. (On a Monday night out she will always wear a pair of dungarees – obviously.) They are trendy and alternative, and bound to get you noticed in a club.
Is there an end to the dungarees fairy story? I don’t think so. History dictates that although fated to die away along with the finite sunny days of a British summer, dungarees will be back. Never throw them out; keep them safe, tucked away at the back of your wardrobe. They will be just as popular again next summer and will inspire trends for generations to come. Trust me.
OxStu Fashion’s edit of our favourite denim dungarees for Summer 2013:
Left to right: Paisley Voodoo Dungarees, £50 (Waist.com); Boohoo Leonie Whitewash Slim Leg Denim Dungarees, £25 (Boohoo.com); Charlie Stone Acid Washed Denim Dungarees, £30 (Phixclothing.com); Bleach Long Leg Dungarees, £48 (TOPSHOP); Boohoo Tasha Acid Wash Denim Dungaree Shots, £18.
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