Prince George may have often been photographed in dungarees but this does raise the question: should you be wearing the same get-up as a toddler?
“Absolutely everyone can wear dungarees,” says Donna Karan, 65. “I wear them for comfort. I throw them over my bodysuit.” In fact, the designer featured tapered denim overalls in her spring/summer 2014 catwalk show, and insists that age is irrelevant.
Her only advice? “Definitely wear flats – boots when it’s cold, ballet slippers when it’s warm.”
The utility overall has been on the rise since last summer, when Prince Harry’s former girlfriend Cressida Bonas wore a stonewashed pair of dungarees to the Glastonbury festival, a look that she replicated this year in white. Cara Delevingne, Heidi Klum and Keira Knightley are also fans of the denim all-in-one. Reality television star Olivia Palermo has been racking up “likes” on Instagram for her denim one-pieces, and TV presenter Alexa Chung has long been an ambassador for the workshop style.
But is there an age cut-off for wearing dungarees? “You’re never too old – it’s a mindset,” says Anita Barr, fashion buying director for Harvey Nichols. “It’s all down to your individual style. The adjustable straps make them really versatile and easy to wear. Rolling them up at the ankle can also look good.”
It would appear that overalls are a natural transition from the increasingly ubiquitous jumpsuit and can be credited to the current 1990s revival, with memorable dungaree wearers from that era including Jennifer Aniston in Friends and Kate Moss by Peter Lindbergh for Harper’s Bazaar in 1994. Also in 1994, Winona Ryder appeared on the cover of Rolling Stone wearing a pair of denim overalls and not much else. Even Diana, Princess of Wales was partial to a set.
“Dungarees have that effortless ‘borrowed from the boys’ vibe that can be seen as incredibly sexy,” says Octavia Bradford, buyer at Net-a-Porter. “The trick is to strike a balance between masculine and feminine by contrasting the oversized silhouette with a fitted top underneath and simple accessories.”
The key to nailing this look is definitely in the fit. Avoid anything too tight, try on multiple pairs and, whatever you do, don’t wear them with Timberland boots or flip down one strap as if you have just escaped from a 1990s boy band such as Boyzone or N Sync.
“As dungarees are often oversized, you need to think about your body shape and about what style and fabric will complement your figure,” says Barr of Harvey Nichols. “Denim and street style was an integral part of the catwalk collections and the dungaree is an easy way of buying into the total look.”
Designer Margaret Howell is another fan of dungarees. “I lived in them when I was pregnant in the late 1970s and I still wear them today,” she says. “I like my dungarees to be on the loose side so I can belt them, turn back the sleeves and roll the trouser bottoms to show the ankle. I’d wear them with my flat brogues or Converse. And they’re best worn over a T-shirt.”
She adds: “The details are attractive. Tabs, loops, pockets, etc. They are clothes fit for purpose and become a part of you as their toughness softens and wears in.”
Howell’s zip-pocket dungarees (£265) carry into autumn, while APC has a range for both summer and winter. “It’s just genuinely sexy,” says Jean Touitou, APC’s creative director. “Wear them with wedge moccasins – but I would totally exclude stilettos and sneakers.”
Geoffrey Finch, creative design consultant at Topshop, says, “There’s a wonderful nostalgia attached to dungarees – a naive ease which is rather comforting. Strap up or down? What’s underneath? What’s not to love about the Herb Ritts pin-up appeal?”
For next season, consider Stella McCartney’s flared dungarees (£550), Rag & Bone’s indigo denims (£470) or Calvin Klein’s stonewash style for Mytheresa.com (£268). In the resort collections, Balmain has houndstooth, denim and silk dungarees as its focal point, and Miu Miu features a crystal-embellished playsuit (£2,480). Denim brands are joining in with various washes and cuts from MiH, Hudson, Paige, Splendid and Frame. Base Range also has a linen collection in long and short styles.
“Dungarees are certainly considered more of a summer staple but, with the right styling, they can see you through to winter,” says Net-a-Porter’s Octavia Bradford. “Swap crop-tops and T-shirts for silk blouses and cashmere knits and layer with a transitional trench or leather jacket.”
Ben Taverniti, creative director for Hudson Jeans, says different colours are suited to different seasons. “A casual, lighter wash for summer and darker accents for winter.” Black and navy are the most fail-safe options, and avoid any children’s TV presenter associations that come with brighter colours.
Beyond the playground: How to do dungarees, grown-up style
First, button up: sloppy-strap wearing is not permissible if you want to be taken seriously. Stand tall and put your shoulders back. Take a tip from Olivia Palermo and Alexa Chung and pair your overalls with a white shirt. It smartens the denim and softens the “off-duty mechanic” impression.
Do not indulge any of the other accessories of infancy: trainers are fine if you’re Cara D or SJP. Flat Chanel shoes or a pair of black court shoes would temper any suggestions of childishness. Think about dark overalls as an evening alternative to the little black dress. Still scared? Hide behind some oversized shades …
Stockists in this article and this week’s other Style articles
Photographs: AFP; Catwalking; Flynet