achievement unlocked: shorty overalls!


Or, I guess these are called dungarees? All my life, I thought that “dungarees” was just what people used to call jeans back in the 50s. But it turns out it means overalls? I guess you learn something new everyday.

The wild thing about these overees (because of course I’m gonna call them that) is that I drafted them almost 100% from scratch. I had a pattern for pajama pants that I traced off from Heather Ross’s book Weekend Sewing, which I got out of the library a few years ago. The pattern was for Jared’s size, & Jared is a slim dude. Definitely much smaller through the waist & hips than I am. So I basically kept the crotch curve (I knew it didn’t have to be too precise because I wanted a loose, casual fit) & just winged it from there.

  • I added width to, you know, get the shorts up over my hips.
  • I cut them to actual short-length, as opposed to full-length pajama pants.
  • I drafted in a jeans-style pocket bag & facing.
  • I added a mock fly to the front.
  • I added jeans-style back pockets, complete with rivets.
  • I drafted front & back waistbands & facings.
  • I added button plackets to the sides to assist with fitting & get that classic overees look.
  • I drafted front back & bibs & facings, as well as straps.
  • I drafted a bib pocket.
  • I added a box pleat to the front bib for fitting reasons.


Side view, with bonus Biscuit. I told Jared, “This is maybe not the sexiest thing I have ever made, but it is very comfortable.” He replied, “They’re the sexiest bib overalls you’ve ever made.” They are also the only bib overalls I’ve ever made. I told him I was going to quote him on that anyway.

So, the inspiration was the July challenge over at the Monthly Stitch. The community voted, & of course they voted for spots & stripes because all people who sew, except for me, love spots & stripes. I was originally going to make some summer jersey pajamas using this cat print fabric that maybe kind of sort of looks polka dotted if you stand really far away, & have terrible vision, & maybe there’s a monsoon happening. Jared was like, “…That fabric is in no way polka dotted. The cats aren’t even polka dotted.” I protested on the grounds that I had already made a sketch, but then I gave in & went back to the drawing board.

Not sure where I got the idea for shorty overees. I have made exactly one pair of shorts since I started sewing three years ago (not counting pajama/tap shorts). Since I am trying hard to eliminate all RTW from my wardrobe & wear only handmade, I definitely need some shorts. I guess I just thought turning them into overees would be more fun & interesting?


The sexy rear view. The pink top is a Brontë tee that I almost never wear because it turns out I hate the sleeve length (I should just shorten it), but I thought the overees would photograph better against a contrast color than the black t-shirts I usually wear.

I ordered some pindot black denim to fulfill the challenge brief while still hewing fairly closely to my own personal all-black aesthetic & started looking for a pattern. But I couldn’t find anything that really fit the bill. Everything had weird zippers or pleats or other things I would have wanted to change or eliminate. I found an intriguing tutorial on drafting your own dungarees based on your measurements, but it was an all-in-one deal–no waistband. I really wanted a waistband because I had this vision of having it button on the sides.

I was actually feeling a bit burnt out on sewing from patterns (especially after my most recent make, as yet unblogged, which turned out well but had the world’s most terrible instructions; I wound up just going completely rogue on the construction, which is probably the only reason it’s wearable), so I decided to draft my own.


You can see a bit more detail here.


The jeans detailing, with the pockets, waistband, & mock fly were an obvious must. But I also felt really strongly about this button placket on the side. I briefly considered making the Turia dungarees by Pauline Alice, but I didn’t want to splash out on a new pattern, & those dungarees fit really closely with zippers at the sides. I really wanted to mimic the classic denim dungarees style that I remember wearing in high school back in 1994, when I thought the writers for “My So-Called Life” must have cameras in my bedroom because I WAS Angela Chase. I wrote tortured poetry for the school lit mag! I had a tempestuous relationship with an older blue-eyed musician! I had a sister named Danielle! My parents were considerably less gross than Graham & Patty though.

Yeah, so I sewed little tabs on to the backs of the overees, & I made the back waistband about 3″ longer than the front, so the waistband & the tab folded over & buttoned into a row of buttons on the front. They are technically there for fitting, but I can slither into the overees without unbuttoning them. They do unbutton though! Let no one say that I make decorative plackets!



Mock fly.


Back pocket. I did lots & lots of topstitching on this garment. That was probably the most time-consuming part, because I didn’t feel like any of the colors of topstitching thread I had on hand really “went,” but I didn’t want to use the black I had left over from my Patti Smith-inspired jeans. (I still need to blog those.) So I used a regular weight black & did a triple stitch. It took approximately forever.

I guess the other interesting “design element” is the pleat in the bib. Once I had them overees all finished, I tried them on & felt like the front bib was too wide. I futzed with it for a while & then I just pinched a bit out at the top & it made a little box pleat & I was surprised by how much I liked the way it looked. So I pinned it in place & sewed it down. Boom! Perfect!


I used some quilting cotton from my stash for all the facings. I tried a few different prints, & I felt like these whales & mermaids worked best with the little pindots on the denim. I made sure to hem, serge, or enclose every single seam in this garment, since denim frays so badly.


Inside the front.


Inside the back.

& with that, I have something easy & comfortable to wear this summer that isn’t a skirt! Huzzah!


Published by Ciara

Ciara Xyerra wrote zines for the better part of two decades. She has a brilliant & adorable preschooler named Ramona & sews as much as she possibly can. She lives in Lawrence, Kansas with her boyfriend. She enjoys catching up on "The New Yorker", meatball subs, keeping it cranky, intersectional post-third wave feminism, dinosaurs, & monsters. If you have nothing nice to say, she recommends that you come sit here by her, so you can say not-nice things together.

12 thoughts on “achievement unlocked: shorty overalls!

    1. Thanks! I just started sewing a couple of years ago (three, to be exact), but with enough practice, it’s pretty amazing what you can pick up & implement. I sew ALL THE TIME & once you figure out how certain techniques are done, it’s just part of your toolbox. I don’t think I could have made these six months ago, but I went on a shirtdress-sewing spree & am now pretty experienced with faced waistbands, for example, which I used here.

      1. That’s awesome! I learned to knit in February 2015, so I understand the pleasure in picking up a new hobby and learning so much. I actually have the fabric, interfacing, pattern and zipper to make a project bag. I just need to make time to actually sew it together. Then, who knows where that will take me. Thanks for the encouragement!

        1. Go for it! Learning to sew was a big lifesaver for me after my daughter was born. It was really helpful to start teaching myself a pretty concrete new skill that enables me to actually see tangible proof of gradual improvement, since raising a child is just a great big mess of having to do a bunch of stuff you don’t know how to do & never really knowing if you’re doing it “right” until maybe your kid is eventually 45 years old & not a serial killer. Plus it gave me some kind of sense of identity besides “mom”. I look back on those early projects & kind of cringe. I see all the mistakes. I mean, I saw them even then, I just didn’t know how to fix them. But it’s okay! I fully concede that sewing isn’t for everyone, but I absolutely love it & encourage anyone who is curious to just give it a try & see what they think.

          Someday I would like to learn to knit, but for now, I think I have my hands full with sewing & having a three-year-old.

  1. Those look great! I pretty much lived in overalls in the 90s. And now I soooo want a pair. And my old blue suede waffle stomper boots….

    1. Thanks! I wore them to see Flight of the Conchords last night–they’re first big outing. They held up great & were super-comfy, even though it was an outdoor venue & it was like 98 degrees.

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