• Sheryl

Styling Dungarees : by way of Undressing

Who knew that Mario's uniform could be so fashionable?



Whether what comes to mind is Mario, painters, railroad workers, the Industrial Revolution, or early 90's fashion, dungarees, or overalls are in today's post-lockdown/post-PJ era, fashionable.


While my sudden interest in it could be an inevitable influence from the media, or merely the irresistible sale and just wholly soft denim from Anthropology, I invested in one and was determined to maximise my use of it. Luckily, overalls are fascinatingly adaptable.


And not just in a daily sense, but also from a socio-political viewpoint: from its invention in 1853 by Levi Strauss and his business partner Jacob Davis, to dressing the silhouettes of stylish people from Princess Diana to Elton John. What was once a mere cloth from an Indian village has withstood the cruel test of time and the relentless trials of fashion from the 1700s. And has again emerged, comfortably fashionable.



1/ Fully dressed. Let's start innocent.

Cahoots!

A 90's-inspired railway master outfit



"Welcome, welcome! Come on in, make yourself comfortable. I'm just gonna hand you a newspaper, alright? Just a newspaper!"


Cahoots. Step into 1940s London: a raucous era of war and air raids, of trains and "Extra! Extra! Read all about it!" In the subterranean tunnels of a disused Kingly Court Underground Station, basked in red light, we settled atop worn train seats beneath some treacherously perched luggage and boxes, poring over the "newspaper" (a detailed collection of bootlegging cocktails indeed) atop a dusty trunk. Everywhere, it was just a tad too dim to see properly, but just bright enough to take in the jazz, the silhouettes in the booths, the cocktails.



Perhaps it was the rise of road transport in the 1920s, or the utility fashion trend in 1940s London that inspired this layering of a red plaid over a lemon yellow tank. I tried to keep it casual, rough on the edges with a military jacket and boots. But with these over-the-shoulder straps worn properly as they were after all, invented for the ease of carrying tools.


Hard labour. Dust. Dirt. Poverty.


I realised later, how ironic it was that despite just styling this outfit to fit the 'vibes' of the bar, I had unconsciously tapped into the harsh, negative associations of the dungaree in that era. In the 1920s to 1930s, overalls clothed the poverty-stricken segments of American society, and was also a symbol of protestation against the rising costs of clothes.


Cahoots was an extremely enjoyable and novel experience (the staff played their characters so well!), but it was also a modern romanticism of a harsh history. Still, it was an intriguing occurrence whereby the atmosphere and architecture brought to light the history of a garment hidden in the unconscious mind.




2/ Let one strap hang and call it fashion.

A trip to Cafe Kitsune / Pantechnicon

Gardener-reporting-to-duty outfit



... as she continues struggling to keep her houseplants alive.


Pantechnicon: six aesthetically-satisfying, daylight-filled, minimalistic floors of Japanese and Nordic fare from fashion to toiletries, books, Monocle magazines, and generally anything design-related.


And of course, the very popular Cafe Kitsune - a bucket list cafe that I have been wanting to visit ever since it graced my Instagram feed with the opening of the Paris branch. This cafe most definitely lived up to its hype and for reasonable prices as well. I walked away with newfound realisation why Japanese Strawberry Sandos were so popular. Oh, those pillowy, melt-in-your-mouth, juicy-with-a-slight-citrus-tang sandwiches were a whole world away from just fresh strawberries and cream slathered on white bread (a misconception that I am sorry I used to have).




Simple. Structured. Neutrals.


Such were the adjectives that I would describe Japanese-Nordic aesthetics. Hence, inspiring this all-black layering of different textures and black combat boots to fit the rough brick. And just like that, I could wear dungarees into one of London's most trendy destinations in an affluent neighbourhood.


It intrigues me how influential people, and fashion can be. Simply after being donned by celebrities, despite still retaining connotations to 'work', dungarees were transcended to that of a fashionable, desirable item. Acclaimed for its comfort and practicality, which was specifically what its original role called for, but made popular with the most potent addition of all: to be desired.



3/ Hold it up by a belt.

The City of London

Power suit



The City of London - London's financial district - is an interesting mix of classical architecture such as St.Paul's Cathedral to modern skyscrapers like the Shard. Despite the changing times, as evidenced by its architectural melange, this district had retained its core as the heart of ambition and career success (quite literally, being a meeting point for businesses).

Powerful. Confident. Bold.


Specifically, these pictures were taken along Leadenhall Street where we were surrounded by architectural wonders such as the Leadenhall Building, the Gherkin, and the Lloyd's Building. I was first introduced to these intimidating landmarks as a starry-eyed first-year, and had since then looked to these buildings as the pinnacles of success.


London, or any city really, is bold. Merciless to those who shy away from these looming silhouettes, the glares of glass, the cold of steel. Personally, I take 'dress for it' quite literally as it is in my outfit - my armour - that gifts me the pretence of confidence in the face of it all.


At this point, I am quite convinced that as long as you don a blazer over pretty much any outfit, it can become quite literally, 'smart casual'. Or well, enough of a power suit to brave those daunting glass doors and soaring ceilings. This particular outfit is a combination of comfort and practicality (sneakers and worn denim! Can it get better than that?), hidden beneath the bold facade of a blazer (fake it till you make it, they say). To contrast against the loose fit of the blazer and dungarees, I added the belt and tube top to give it a bit more structure.


It is getting a little metaphorical at this point, but I am a hopeless romantic. I find it particularly poetic that dungarees, from a cloth called 'Dungri' in 17th century India, has travelled the seas to dress the working class of America in the 1800s. It has seen the horrors of war, it has protected its workers. It rose to become a fashion icon in the 1900s. Its timeless charm has once again, graced the fashion trends of today's modern world. And of course, I was in mine while writing this piece.


No wonder overalls are Mario's uniform. Why, Mario is as timeless as they are!


But, if the dungaree can experience and achieve so much despite its humble beginnings, there is something to be said about dreams. Dreams, resilience, challenges and being fashionably fun in the process.


My inspiration for the week as I continue to delve into the blackhole of job applications?


Dungarees.



Thank you for reading!

-Sheryl

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