Making Issue No. 8 / Makes / Chaparral Overalls
When it's been a while since I've worked with linen, I miss it. I miss feeling the fabric in my hands and the way it behaves. I miss the predictability of it and the strength it embodies. I miss how it makes me feel that I'm directly connected to nature, that I am holding nature in my hands. Sewing with linen feels like a breath of fresh air and can invoke the sensation of being refreshed and encouraged in my sewing practice. Linen is my favorite fabric both to wear and sew; when combined with a great pattern, it makes for an enjoyable sewing experience. The Chaparral Overalls pattern by Sonya Philip in our most recent issue, Making No. 8 / FOREST, is a great pattern and perfect match for linen.
I grew up wearing overalls as a kid, short ones and long ones, all boxy and slightly oversized, and made from denim. These were fun to wear and were the type of clothing that could be worn well. The pockets would be filled with rocks and sticks found outside, and grass stains saturated the knees from playing on the front lawn. There's something so timeless about a pair of overalls, and yet, they instill a sense of nostalgia in me. I think that's perhaps why I love them so much—they remind me of childhood and that it's important to play and connect with the earth.
Before I sewed the real thing, I made a muslin to make sure I got the alterations right and wanted to get my grandma's opinion on the fit. When I showed my grandma the muslin, my grandpa noticed them and said they reminded him of the something he wore as a kid, which he described as bib overalls. He started describing the different kinds from his youth, and how he always wished he could have the denim Levi's overalls as a kid. He told me that the ones he wore as a kid were often homemade out of a chino-like fabric that fastened in the front with buttons and sometimes had short legs. As he was talking, he pointed to a photo in the kitchen of him as a boy wearing the very overalls he described. Our chat about my grandpa's childhood overalls made me curious about the history of the garment and the different kinds, so I did a little research on the subject. It was fascinating to learn how they've changed over time and went from being a purely functional garment to one that's worn nowadays for both function and fashion.
One thing I've enjoyed observing as overalls have become popular is the evolution of the garment and the different interpretations that modern overalls have taken. There are still the classic denim ones; the fit is less boxy these days and more tailored looking. But the style of overalls I'm drawn to most are the simple-looking ones that don't have buckles or buttons and aren't made of denim. These overalls are the ones that look like they can be lived in comfortably, the kind my grown-up self desires. I want to wear clothing that can be a part of my everyday life, and it's the simple everyday items that I often become attached to over time. The Chaparral Overalls are precisely that type of garment, the kind you can live in and love well.
The design and shape of these overalls is unique and charming in their construction. The front piece has a dramatic neckline, and the long straps that start in the front trail down to the low back, cross along their way and finish with a knot. This lovely cross back feature is one of my favorite things about the pattern and one of the reasons the garment is so comfortable to wear, not to mention, visually stunning. I also adore the deep topstitched pockets; they are the perfect size to carry a small notebook or a phone, or, like in childhood, a place to put remnants of the outdoors.
When I put on this garment, it makes me want to rush outside and connect with nature in some way. When I slip those straps on my shoulders, and they lay crossed against my back, I want to grab a pair of rubber boots and a straw hat, then head outside to the garden and tend the earth. I want to be under the warm sun and get dirt under my fingernails and on my knees, signs that I've been working and living. I want to have a picnic out under the warm fall sun with the people I love in clothing I love. Everything about this project, from the intentional design to the suggested fabric, embodies nature to me. These overalls make me feel that even though I'm not always outside, the outside is with me somehow when I wear them. I love that clothing has the power to transport and move us in this way.
Note on Styling
I used to find overall type garments a bit of a challenge to style because I wasn't sure what top would be flattering to wear with them. Should I wear a loose-fitting top, or a tighter one? One with sleeves, or sleeveless? In truth, we should wear what's comfortable for us and not what any rules say; it may just take a bit of experimenting to find what we like best. I tried on several different style tops with these overalls and ended up loving them paired with an old loose fitting handmade silk habotai top. To keep it from slipping out at the side seams, I used a rubber band to bind up the extra fabric in the back of my top, and the whole outfit was very comfortable and easy to wear; I didn't want to take it off! If you're looking to make a similar top to pair with your overalls, I think a simple one like the Array Shirt in Issue No. 6 / Black & White would be a lovely match.
Instructions for the Chaparral Overalls by Sonya Philip can be found on pages 74-81 of Making No 8. / FOREST. The fabric used is Purl Soho's Daily Linen in Warm Clay. In the next post, I'll be sharing some tips for working with linen and then the following post will be all about the adjustments I made for a more personal fit. - Emily