Is it ever a good idea to wear an item of clothing that can make you look like a toddler? Claire Brayford finds out...
That is the question you must ask yourself before donning a pair of dungarees. And not just that – do I want to channel the spirit of a teen raver, a farmhand, a member of a 90s girl band, a dustbowl hoedown dancer or a children’s TV presenter? I imagine the answer is definitively no – and that is why one should approach “the denim enemy”, as British Vogue once dubbed them, with extreme caution. No matter how playful and practical for three-year-olds, dungarees are peppered with pitfalls for grown women. And yet with their borrowed from the boys ease, classic denim overalls are everywhere. Naomi Watts, Dakota Johnson, Lily Aldridge, Alexa Chung… and even the Duchess of Cambridge are all working them way beyond the playground. Oh to have been a fly on the wall when British Vogue’s fashion director, Lucinda Chambers, held a pair of AG Lolita flared dungarees before Kate Middleton for the Centennial cover shoot: “Fancy giving these a whirl your Highness?”. AG Jeans reported the style sold out on publication, and such is the demand they have just released a new lighter wash. “It’s not every day that the Duchess of Cambridge is wearing your dungarees,” says Johnathan Crocker, vice president of global communications. So if only for a sigh of satisfied relief as you snap snugly into your all-in-one, it is worth getting into your dungaree stride. Well, if they’re good enough for royalty… Words: Claire Brayford Holding image: The stylish makeup artist Elsa Morgan wearing her dungarees photographed by Julie Adams
Swedish denim blogger Jacqueline Mikuta
What shoes do I wear?
The third most-liked dungaree look on Instagram (15,000 and counting) is by Swedish denim blogger Jacqueline Mikuta. She teamed her distressed, bleached Dr Denim dungarees with just a white T-shirt and simple trainers. That’s it. As American Vogue recently advised, the last thing dungarees should be is too considered, and that starts with your footwear. Ballet pumps or classic trainers; flats say effortless and easy, while teetering heels just jar. To polish the look, try pairing them with a burgundy loafer and a slim knit. If you must wear heels, then reserve them for flared styles.
Harper’s BAZAAR Germany’s style editor, Veronika Heilbrunner. Photo credit: Rex
What's the best shape?
The most flattering style is cropped or rolled at the ankle, tapered and fit like a glove. Paige Denim, Current/Elliott, R13 and Chloe’s Snow Capsule collection – as seen recently on Cate Blanchett – all have a good selection, while Dr Denim is great for inexpensive styles. Harder to pull off is the Huckleberry Finn, straight-up-and-down, boyish fit. Harper’s BAZAAR Germany’s style editor, Veronika Heilbrunner, may make it look like childsplay, but for non-professionals a neat, fitted pair is a safer bet. “I’m wearing dungarees a lot at the moment as they are really versatile,” says Australian denim guru and founder of IDA jeans, Donna Ida Thornton. “The shape can be intimidating but just try them on. Keep an eye on the proportions and fit of the bib to make sure it is flattering for you. In the right fit, you’ll find they become a weekend staple.”
Australian denim guru and founder of IDA jeans, Donna Ida Thornton
Which is the best wash?
This will always depend on your body shape,” explains Donna. “If you’re curvy like me, you might prefer a darker denim, which is nice and fitted around the waist with a slim leg. Boyish figures can embrace baggier styles and stiffer denim, they may also find vintage-inspired washes are more flattering with added shading. I’ve introduced the IDA Eliza, the relaxed skinny dungarees, which has a flash of leopard print on the inside that can be seen on the bib and cuffs – a look definitely for grown-ups. Coated denim is another way to make dungarees look smarter, so look out for the Eliza jean in Grease and Jam.”
Victoria’s Secret model Lily Aldridge and actress Kate Bosworth wearing Stella McCartney’s stretch overalls
What about flares?
As denim is taking its cue from the 70s, so flared dungarees are everywhere. From Stella McCartney’s stretch overalls to Valentino’s embellished all-in-ones, worn with heels they make your legs look a mile long – just make sure they’re fitted everywhere else so you are not drowning in denim. A great flared style to try are the Charley overall by Current/Elliott – you can even wear them with flats. As the brand’s vice president of design, Michele Manz says: “With a slight vintage vibe, the flattering, slim fit and cropped flare with raw hem allows you to flaunt your favourite summer sandal or espadrille.”
Alexa Chung styles a white blouse underneath her overalls
What do I wear underneath?
A grey marl or white T-shirt, a silk blouse or a ribbed knit – so long as it’s plain and simple you won’t go far wrong. “I try to mix it up, and choose deconstructed pieces to keep it cool and edgy,” says Donna. “So a chunky jumper or cashmere knit can make dungarees look more fashion-led, a blouse more feminine and a T-shirt more relaxed.”
Beyonce working the one strap look
And anything else to remember?
Aside from the above – avoid the deliberate one strap look – you don’t work on a farm and even if you do you should have time to do up your clothing. And don’t even think about double, or in the case of Beyonce, triple denim. Head-to-toe anything is a lot worse than dressing like a toddler.