Chambray Shirts

Chambray material originated in Cambrai, Northern France, where the fabric was first designed and used to create sunbonnets in the late 1500s AD. Chambray is a strong fabric with a smooth surface, designed with a tight weave. The material is soft and comfortable. It has a very soft coloring, which causes it to appear with a faded look. Chambray is easy to sew and wears well, yet wrinkles easily unless crease resistant. This makes it ideal for work wear. It was famously adopted by the US navy in 1901 right through to World War II.


Published in: on May 11, 2011 at 4:43 pm  Comments Off on Chambray Shirts  
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The History of Overalls

While we have discussed a little bit about overalls before, this will be a quick study of the evolution of the overalls up until the 1930s.

The first “modern” examples of overalls comes around the 1830s. The painting above is called “In The Woodshed” by James Clonney, c. 1838. It shows the apron is a clear separate piece sewn to the waist of the trousers and is made of two pieces.

By the 1850s, the overalls became a single piece and worn over the trousers. The standard colors slowly become standardized with white being for painters, pin stripped for rail road workers, and finally the blue shades for the rest of the working class.


Overalls tended to be a mass produced item of clothing with the first commercial “do it at home” patterns for these garments coming out in the early 1870’s. The straps are generally fairly narrow and can be either stitched or buttoned at the rear and at this time it seems that pre-1874 overalls usually have a button instead of a buckle to secure the straps in place on front of the chest. This style would remain similar in pattern until the early 1900s with some stylistic changes.

The one-piece work overall arrived in 1891-1916 to fit over a shirt or vest and trousers. The most common material for overalls for this period is going to be denim and to a lesser extent waterproof material. The slits tend to be reinforced to prevent tearing. The garments for this time period can be without pockets but it seems that two patch pockets in the front below the waist level is very common as are two back patch pockets in addition. Pockets on the bib are correct for this time period but they don’t appear to be as large as modern examples.

This final example is from a pair of overalls that date from the late 20s.

Published in: on May 10, 2011 at 8:03 pm  Comments Off on The History of Overalls  
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Striking Miners

These are a series of photographs of striking miners in WV by Horydczak, Theodor, ca. 1920. Hopefully, these will help give more examples of what sort of clothing was worn at the time.

Published in: on May 10, 2011 at 5:09 pm  Comments Off on Striking Miners  
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Miner’s Cap

During the early 1900s hard hats were uncommon. Most of the time miners would have worn a soft canvas cap like the one above or their everyday soft caps. By the 1920s, the lamps were of the “Carbide lamp” variety.

Published in: on March 30, 2011 at 5:51 pm  Comments Off on Miner’s Cap  
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1910s Sack Coat

The Sack Coat was the “uniform” of early 20th century working class persons. The sack coat refers to any sort of man’s hiplength coat with a straight back. The earliest known examples date back to the 1840s and was the main style of coat used by Union soldiers during the American Civil War. By the late nineteenth century distinctive characteristics of this coat included a small collar, short lapels, a fastened top button close to the neck and had a slightly baggy appearance. Most work coats would have 3 to 4 patch pockets on them and would have been made out of cotton but wool is always a good option to use as well.

Published in: on March 27, 2011 at 8:53 pm  Comments Off on 1910s Sack Coat  
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