Wednesday, March 29, 2017

1860's Boys Overalls / HSF #3 - The Great Outdoors

My oldest finally, finally agreed to put on his new overalls and go outside for pictures. We are half way through spring break and I guess he thought he had enough spare time on his hands to humor me. Thank you, David! Since we are almost done with March (ohmygoshhow?) I am going to use this project for the HSF challenge for this month, which is The Great Outdoors!

Overalls in the 1860's period were used as protective clothing and were, as far as I can tell, worn over your regular clothes. Images depicting men of the mid 19th century in overalls show men in laboring conditions, or holding occupational tools that support the idea these were specific garments in specific situations worn to keep your regular clothes clean and whole.
CDV from Steamboat Arabia  Museum blog
Unable to find original source, from pinterest

Unable to find original source for this image
from pinterest
Detail from photo from Library of

Image from UVM credited to Dressed for the Photographer
by Joan Severa
From what I've been able to gather, it sounds like 19th century overalls may have started out as high waisted, or bibless, overalls. A number of years ago Past Patterns published their popular overalls pattern, but that style is documented to post-war years. The overalls I made for David are an in-between style.

The features that distinguish these from later overalls include a two piece leg, with an inseam and outer seam, a waist seam between the apron and the trouser, and no pockets on the apron. The apron is not curved and angles up towards the top edge from the side seam. I did put pockets in the side seams, as I found an image which indicates pockets like these could have been used in overalls. I also put in a fly since a few images indicate a functioning fly was used in period.

I used Past Patterns light summer trouser pattern for these, leaving off the front waistband, modifying the pockets and adding an apron to the top at the front. I added two straps to the back and done!

They are made of medium weight cotton twill and are unlined. Hopefully they hold up well to wear this summer, but it looks like David has grown some in just the few weeks that have passed since I made these. So I'm not sure how long they will fit!

For the sake of being HA, I wanted him to at least look like he was doing some kind of outdoor occupation when we took these pictures. ;) He has maintained a huge interest in mining over the last few years so he decided to hold a pickaxe (no idea if ours is even remotely accurate, but, its a pickaxe) and imagine he was going off to the local mine. Which is, actually, not a too far fetched idea if he had indeed lived around here in the 1860's. This area was one of the largest coal producing places in the country, with the first reported coal mine in 1800 and the coal industry extremely well established by the 1860's.

Under his overalls he is wearing a white cotton shirt, and a checkered shirt as an overshirt. Instead of a cravat he has a neck cloth, and, of course, his cap. :) He says his clothes are quite comfortable.

And the HSF details:

The Challenge: The Great Outdoors

Material: Cotton twill, with white cotton for the pockets, fly and facings.

Pattern: Past Patterns summer trousers, modified for overalls

Year: 1840ish-1865ish

Notions: Buttons, although in the 60's buckles could be used on the straps.

How historically accurate is it? I think the shape, cut and construction are consistent with period methods. Historically these were worn as protective outer clothing but my kid will probably wear them for casual lounging about at local reenactments.

Hours to complete: These went together very fast. I started and finished them in a 24 hour period. Maybe 4-5 hours altogether.

First worn: Today for pictures! He has an event in late April and may wear these there.

Total Cost: Discount fabric, probably $5 altogether.


  1. Your son looks fantastic! He is such a handsome young man. Reminds me of my boy at that age.

  2. I could use a pair of overalls around the farm. Maybe I'll make some historic ones! Your work is always so meticulous and inspiring!


Thank you for your lovely thoughts!