Tag Archives: overalls

Plain Jane by Danuta Overall Knickers

I don’t look for stuff from the 1970s, but when a really great piece crosses my path, I try to add it to my collection. Having lived through the decade, I have good memories of what was cool, but memories can be deceiving. I remember knickers, but in my mind I can’t really place the fad to a specific year or season. My guess is that they sort of came and went from the late 60s to the 80s. I need to do a deep dive into my 70s Seventeen magazine collection to get a better idea of that trend.

What I love about this garment is its strong nod to the sportswear of the past.  The late 60s and the 70s were influenced by a feeling of nostalgia, if you could call it that. For teens, it wasn’t a longing for our past, but instead, that of our parents and grandparents. We longed for the pop culture of the 20s, 30s, and 40s – without the Great Depression and the horrors of WWII, of course. No, we looked to Charlie Chaplin and Bogart, and Clara Bow and Betty Boop.

So where does my latest acquisition fit in? I’d say it’s part Little Rascals and part Rosie the Riveter.  The tweed fabric is a definite throwback to the knickers that boys, and increasingly, young women, wore in the 1920s. The bib shows the influence of overalls, which women wore for work and recreation in the 30s and into the war years. There might even be a bit of the  pilots’ jumpsuit in there.

But this is so typical of much of fashion and youth culture in the 70s. My mother, who was born in 1931, was always pointing out to me how the latest 70s fashions were so similar to what she wore as a young person.

The label is an interesting one. Plain Jane was the forerunner of Esprit. It was started in 1968 by Susie Tompkins and designer Jane Tise. They produced junior clothing under several labels including Sweet Baby Jane (a riff on the 1970 James Taylor album, perhaps).  The company was renamed Esprit de Corps sometime in the late 70s, and by 1980 the label had been changed to Esprit.

The story of the company is not a nice one, though they did make nice clothing. Susie Tompkins’ husband Doug was involved in a nasty union dispute starting in 1974, mainly because he wanted to break his contract with his workers and move production to Hong Kong. You can see who won by looking at the label.

Danuta was Danuta Ragent who designed Plain Jane from around 1973 to 1978.  Jane Tise continued to design the Sweet Baby Jane line, though her shares of the company were bought by the Tompkinses in 1976. My favorite sewing pattern of the late 70s was a Butterick Young Designer,  Jane Tise for Sweet Baby Jane . The design was straight out of the 1940s.

This is such a great design. I love how the line of the bib pockets extends to form the hip pockets.

All the buckles are metal and are adjustable.

Thanks to Robin for sharing the information about Danuta, and whose Etsy shop is one of my favorites.




Filed under Collecting, Designers, Sportswear

WWII Farm Girls and their Overalls

I usually don’t take the time to look through stacks of old cards, but maybe I ought to do it more often.  Otherwise, I’ll be missing some great things like the sweet card above.  I found it last week in a pile of miscellaneous paper items at the Charlotte Flea. I ususally don’t think of old greeting cards as being fashion illustration, but it does happen that you can see a lot of the fashions from the past reflected in print of all kinds.  What caught my eye about the card was the fact that I already had a pair of overalls like the girl is wearing.

I found these 1940s overalls two years ago at an antique mall in Virginia and just couldn’t believe my luck! During WWII, many women did jobs that previously had been held by men. And while Rosie the Riveter is a well-known 40s icon, the farm girl was just as important. The raising of food was a vital part of the war effort, and many college women spent their wartime summers on farms, filling in for the farmhands turned servicemen.

The blue overalls were standard wear for these farm girls. I think it is great how they took a garment that was all about function, and managed to make it look cute!

These lowly overalls also played an important role in making women pants-wearers. Many women had been wearing pants for very casual occasions since the late 1920s, but it was the daily wearing of them during the war that made pants more accepted among women.

Some  images from my 1940s fashion magazines:

And here is a look at the clothes of the British Land Girls.


Posted by Stacey Brooks Newton:

Love the post! So informative! I would never have thought of the history of these overalls without your information. Thanks:)

Saturday, October 11th 2008 @ 8:54 PM

Posted by Lizzie:

Hello Stacey, Yes, it’s amazing how the simplest of items can have an interesting history!

Sunday, October 12th 2008 @ 8:19 AM

Posted by maria:

hey well thank u so much..for this information..i have to dress..in the early 1040 for the school and i was goin to wear a dress but this i a better way..:)

Tuesday, February 24th 2009 @ 6:57 PM

Posted by Laura – threesaparty@hotmail.co.uk:


Awesome post! DO you have a picture of the back of the overalls by any chance?

Friday, August 7th 2009 @ 4:26 AM

Posted by Lizzie:

Laura, I don’t have a photo of the back, and they are packed away. The straps criss-cross the back and attach at the waist. Hope that helps you visualize!

Friday, August 14th 2009 @ 6:55 PM

Posted by lilly:

wow do u have any evacue girls clothes?:)

Sunday, November 22nd 2009 @ 7:44 AM

Posted by Lizzie:

No, I’m afraid not. Was that a British thing?

Sunday, November 22nd 2009 @ 7:53 AM

Posted by Lowongan kerja:

That’s great

Sunday, April 11th 2010 @ 11:59 AM

Posted by Wilbur Clinet:

excellent blog

Tuesday, April 13th 2010 @ 7:33 AM

Posted by Diane:

Oh, the cute-ness! Those look pretty tiny… what size would you say that they are?

Saturday, June 26th 2010 @ 5:51 PM

Posted by Lizzie:

Diane, They are pretty small, with a waist of about 25″!

Saturday, June 26th 2010 @ 6:40 PM

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Filed under Vintage Clothing, World War II