The development and use of bib overalls in the United States, 1856-1945
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In the past, costume historians have expended much effort researching fashionable dress. Now scholars are gaining in awareness of the need to also study common, everyday dress. Much of the research done to date has focused on women's clothing, but that, too is changing, with the realization of the need to consider men's clothing. Not only are costume historians beginning to look at everyday clothing, but clothing manufacturers are also interested in learning about the history of their products, because this information can be applied to advertising campaigns and company promotional literature. Perhaps the findings will also shed light on the larger issue of the development of workwear and its diversification to serve different purposes. Bib overalls were, and still are, the everyday apparel for some people. They are perceived as a uniform for the working masses, especially those in agriculture. Historic photographs and mail order catalogs provide evidence that males were the primary wearers through the early 1900's, but these sources also illustrate that the age of the wearers ranged widely. Previously unanswered questions about this functional garment included when it was first made, how the garment design evolved, who the intended wearers were, and whether it was first home sewn or commercially manufactured. The Geo. N. Davis and Bro's Catalogue, dated 1856, advertised overalls, vulcanized and solarized, for "provision packers, butchers, fisherman, &c (sic]." By the early 1900's there were many companies producing bib overalls, from Vermont to Kansas to Canada.