Marilyn: The ‘Underalls, Overalls’ Girl

With many of us still working from home due to ongoing restrictions, the fashion industry is currently pushing smart but casual lounge-wear. With this in mind, Refinery29 hails the return of denim dungarees (as if they had ever gone away.)

“When women entered the workforce during WWI, the dungaree transcended its masculine associations and before long the utilitarian item featured a cinched waist, flared legs and smaller pockets to meet the demand for a more feminine silhouette. With Hollywood stars like Judy Garland and Marilyn Monroe touting a pair, dungarees crossed over from function into fashion. Since then, every decade has fallen for the one-piece, from the linen and wide-legged iterations of the ‘70s loved by Roger Daltrey, to the camp stage look of the ‘80s – a favourite of Elton John and Bananarama. They really came into their own in the ‘90s, though, appearing on a who’s who of entertainment.”

While Judy Garland sported dungarees in Summer Stock (1950), and Marilyn certainly loved denim, she wasn’t part of the dungarees trend. The closest she came was the white romper suit seen in her early modelling shoots, and the overalls she wore as cannery worker Peggy in Clash By Night (1952.) On a break from filming the rafting scenes in River Of No Return (1954), she was spotted wearing overalls.

Perhaps Marilyn was just too glam for dungarees, but had she worn them, she would surely have made them work for her. After all, photographer David Conover first ‘discovered’ her in uniform at the Radioplane munitions plant, as she would note a decade later in her memoir, My Story. “I wore overalls in the factory,” she recalled. “I was surprised that they insisted on this. Putting a girl in overalls is like having her work in tights, particularly if a girl knows how to wear them.”