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Overalls: Why They're Back, How to Wear Them, and the Best to Buy

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Driely S. for Racked
Driely S. for Racked

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Overalls are back, have been back, and don't seem to be going anywhere. You can buy them with long, skinny pant legs that hug the body, as loose culottes that hit mid-shin, and as micro-shorts with skinny straps. They come in denim, in leather, in lace; in white, in black, in floral. In a few short seasons, the coverall has gone from garish childhood relic to must-have for bloggers, festival-goers, and major retailers.

Overalls: a Brief, Modern History

This all-in-one silhouette, distinguished by its buckle closure, popped up on runways during the '90s resurgence a few years back. Phillip Lim showed them for spring 2013, but the style hit fever pitch with the spring 2014 shows, appearing at Rag & Bone, DKNY, and Alexander Wang. In response to those early sightings, Christina Binkley predicted overalls' rise in a September 2013 blog post for the Wall Street Journal, musing that "the current fascination with the 1970s will produce more versions of this hayseed attire on the New York runways (but not on Euro catwalks. The general fascination with blue collar influences is distinctly American)."

Coverall styles have since skyrocketed in popularity. They're on celebs from cool Alexa Chung to austere January Jones, in stores from Zara to Barneys (including styles by European designers like Stella McCartney and Victoria Beckham, who may have soft spots for "blue collar influences"), and are an absolute germ of festival style, infecting every tenth girl in the crowd.

How to Style

You bit the bullet, you own a pair of overalls, and now you have to figure out what to wear with them. Because overalls are such a bold look, there's no middle ground in styling: they're either extremely casual or surprisingly sexy.

Option A: Casual

On top, pretty much anything in the T-shirt family works: band tees, striped shirts, vintage finds. Slide sandals, classic sneakers, or pointed loafers are all good shoe options, paired with an easy crossbody bag or a Fashion Backpack and a bold pair of sunglasses.

Option B: Sexy

This one is pretty easy, too: don't wear anything underneath and embrace side boob with abandon. If that's terrifying, something cropped will do (the Rihanna move is a sports bra). Heels and a clutch are fair game now; accent all that bare décolletage with a cluster of dainty necklaces.

What to Buy

Ready? Here are eleven of our favorite pairs of short overalls on the market now, ranging from a traditional style by Topshop in stark white (which you can snag for under $100) to a very grown-up take on the silhouette from Valentino.