Friday, September 09, 2005


What ever happened to “dungarees?” I haven’t seen dungarees for sale in many years. I can get “jeans” and “denim,” but where are those good old, sturdy “dungarees?” Years ago, getting a new pair of dungarees was almost like getting married. You picked them out, signed the paper (charge slip), brought them home, and if properly cared for would last for years. I had a favorite pair of dungarees that outlasted my marriage!

The old-fashioned dungarees had to be broken in before they could be worn. First you had to wash the heavy-duty fabric several times just to get it to bend. Few homes had indoor driers or even fabric softener, so most dungarees were line-dried, adding to their stiffness. Just bring ‘em in and stand ‘em in the corner! It could take months, even years, of wearing and washing to achieve that softer, relaxed fabric.

Dungarees were made of such a thick and tight weave, even after “breaking in,” they provided a degree of protective covering. You could climb trees, roll across concrete and fall into creeks and although the dungarees might be scuffed and scraped, your body remained unscathed and in one piece. Parents bought their kids dungarees in one size too large knowing that the blue armor would last through several growth spurts. Unless you were the youngest of a family of ten, you could count on getting hand-me-downs that originated with the oldest sibling.

Depending on how tight a fit was desired, we teen girls pulled on our new, store bought dungarees and jumped into a bathtub full of hot water for a custom-contoured shrink alteration. Well, maybe it only rinsed out some of the dye, but we thought the shrink trick worked. Less expensive dungarees could result in an added surprise and take up to a week for the blue stain to wear off our lower bodies! As for tightness, if we didn’t have to fall backwards on the bed and inhale deeply just to zip, the pants were too loose!

There were no style choices, just sizes. No ”low-rise,” no “flare bottom” no “boot cut” no “elastic waist.” Just one style, but, oh, what you could do with that one style if you had imagination and a sewing box full of decorative trim. Older dungarees were turned into “cut-offs” and could be snipped anywhere from knee-length to cheek-to-cheek. We were wearing the shorter version of cutoffs way before the heroine of “Dukes of Hazard” pranced around in her now famous “Daisy Dukes.”

Now that I’m more mature – okay, really mature – I miss dungarees. I also miss the body I once had that fit into those dungarees. Now I shop for pre-shrunk and softened, elastic waist, stretch, no-iron, wide-leg jeans to fit the expanded areas of my body. If I had to fall backwards on the bed to zip, I’d probably fall asleep and never get out of the house. Yes, there is a lot to be said for the immediate comfort of the new style jeans. Oh, and the less said about the body that now fits into them, the better!

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