Do you know how memories can just come and smack you in the face unexpectedly? Last weekend I was in the midst of a perfect storm. Grieving the recent loss of my father and wallowing in self pity, I had begun hating my reflection and feeling as heavy as an elephant. In a snap decision I decided to break out the comfiest and least fashion forward outfit in my wardrobe. A simple pair of black denim dungarees.
I sat on the edge of my bed, tracing the buttons and clasps with my fingers. The tears began to flow and memories came over me in droves. Somehow the action of fastening those clasps unlocked a whole treasure chest of endless days spent with my dad. I was transported to a summer day. He was looking after us while my mam was working and three daughters only 5 years apart proved to be a definite test of his endurance. He rose to the occasion and entertained us for hours, tiring us out with walks that seemed to go on for ever, taking us fishing in the local pond and playing film after film for us on his VCR. On this particular day I was wearing my favourite outfit, a pair of blue denim dungarees and a crazy, colourful patterned t-shirt. As a child growing up in the early 90s, I was still heavily influenced by my parents’ hippy/mod music and fashion. The dungarees were my mam’s choice, she told me that she used to wear dungarees too when she was growing up. From the moment I put them on, I was in love.
Inevitably that day, at 4 or 5 years old, my visits to the bathroom were frequent. No matter how hard I tried, I could never fasten those dungarees buttons. I remember shouting for my dad. “Dad! I can’t do my buttons!” And every time, without fail my dad would come and show me how with such patience and understanding. Until one day, I didn’t need him to do it any more.
Back in my bedroom, I sobbed my heart out. I miss my dad so much, but these dungarees unlocked such a precious memory for me. Their inherently childish design, comfort and (eventual) ease to wear undoubtedly stirs up nostalgia in even the most fashion forward individual. I wear my dungas with pride and, even though my relationship with them holds a tinge of sadness, I wear them to hold on to the past.
The versatility a simple pair of dungarees can offer makes them an essential part of anyone’s wardrobe. They can serve people’s needs in all seasons, with a crop top underneath in spring and summer or teamed with a cosy jumper in the winter. Their utilitarianism has served billions of people for decades. Beginning in India in the 17th century, to the overalls that were literally worn through during the American Great Depression; one can’t look at a pair without making a connection to the past - either to their own childhood or the glorious days when they made a resurgence in the 1970s.
Although dungarees have made a recent reappearance on the fashion stage, I am championing the cause for more variety and a better fit for the plus size girl. Dungarees, in my humble opinion, should scream comfort first. The fantastic fabrics that can be created today teamed with their timeless design are a guaranteed recipe for success. I say long may they continue!
Clothes hold the power to transport us. So many of our fondest memories can be triggered by a certain outfit; an item’s colour or cut, fabric or designs. So even though now I can do my buttons, I will never outgrow my dungarees.