Farm Fresh

Thanks to Los Angeles designers, overalls are going from country to couture
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Despite clothing freebies delivered daily and a personal stylist on call, there was something missing from Katie Holmes’s closet. Perhaps the actress was channeling the new distaste for conspicuous consumption, or maybe she presaged an evolution from last year’s jumpsuit and romper fads. She called Joe Dahan, founder of L.A.-based Joe’s Jeans, and asked him to make her a pair of overalls. Dahan added a snug bib top to distressed, loose-cut jeans and included the style in his fall collection (“Cropped Ex-Lover,” $185 at Bloomingdale’s, Beverly Center, L.A., 310-360-2700). In doing so, Joe’s joined a growing number of local labels—Future Heretics, Velvet Heart, and Secta, to name a few—that are putting the backwoods staple on fashion’s forefront.

Not long before Holmes’s call to Dahan, Carrie Martines, the women’s design director of the Orange County company Volcom, spotted women in overalls in Paris. “We were inspired,” Martines says. “We designed a pair for the fall collection because it goes with the grunge vibe we’re doing.” Volcom’s weathered-looking one-piece, which features short pants that suggest “tailored” instead of “trough” ($66 at Volcom, L.A., 323-933-2442), doesn’t suffer from what Martines calls the “big dumpy butt” problem that has plagued overalls fans. Jennifer Alt-house, a buyer at American Rag’s World Denim Bar, admits “it’s tough to get people in overalls,” but she ordered a style by New York label Prps ($484 at American Rag Cie, L.A., 323-935-3154) because she believes customers simply need guidance in how to wear them (with Converse sneakers and a tank tee, she offers). Althouse may also have taken note of Jenny Lewis, the Angeleno singer who has proved onstage and off that overalls, like anything else, can be worn tight.

It’s natural for denim companies, especially those keen on heritage, to wax nostalgic about a form of workwear that dates back more than a century. “Overalls tap into our inner child,” says Jerome Dahan (brother of Joe), who designed three styles (including “Mason,” left, $286 at shopbop.com) for Citizens of Humanity’s spring line.

But when overalls get the runway treatment, a solid trend is afoot. YSL made overalls for fall, and for spring 2010, Ralph Lauren and Zero+Maria Cornejo continued the idea. Jean Paul Gaultier’s last couture collection rendered them in gold lamé and crocodile—for an amount that could literally buy the farm.

Photograph by Citizens of Humanity