Overalls - complex document(s) 

a never ending artistic research process 

by Niels Windfeld Lund & collaborators

Why this artistic research project on overalls?

I have always been fascinated of the history of not only humans, but also the things humans are using, like houses, furnitures, food, drinks, and not least clothes. 

In modern society there has been a tendency to hide the ageing of both humans and the things in human life, to make them look like new and clean, instead of showing the ageing of human bodies, the fading of clothes, the natural dissolving process of stuff. 

In this project I will explore how clothes, especially overalls, are ageing and through the "breaking in" process become objects in need of mending, and how this can evolve into artistic objects, wearable art. 

I also want to thank my overalls sister Thistle-Evelyn for overall support and participation in this lifelong project 


Origins of overalls 


" First appearing in the U.S. in the 1700s and known as “slops,” overalls became the uniform of the working stiff. Over time, their baggy silhouette served as an emblem worn by railroaders and Depression-era farmers — as recalled in Grant Wood’s American Gothic. Later, they became emblematic of 1960s’ hippies, college students of the ‘70s, and even hip-hop and other recording artists, who wore them with one shoulder unfastened. Mick Jagger is no stranger to them, nor is glam rock. Jagger sported a velvety pair, studded with gems, spelling MICK and made eternal in a photo by Herb Ritts. Bib overalls are clothing for the ages."

Bib Overalls: From Farmwear to Fashion Icon 

Modern Farmer OCT 23, 2013 Lori Rotenberk


Breaking in the overalls 

In this section I explore how the overalls are ageing and change their color and fiber structure. They start with dark blue denim and then the get lighter and lighter, and the fibers become thinner and thinner and at one point holes are created and a need of mending emerges. 

Big Ben overalls 2001-2011

Pointer brand overalls 2003-2017

Big Smith overalls 2006-2018

Roundhouse overalls 2008-2018

Key overalls 2006-2018

Big Ben overalls 

Mending the overalls 

Throughout human history clothes and other textiles used in human life have been mended over and over again in order to keep them in use and function. You have often done it in a way so it was invisible but you can also do it in a visible way and then it can evolve into a kind of artistic work. 

Pointerbrand overalls

Key overalls

Big Smith overalls

Overalls as canvas 

You start to use the needle and thread as brush and colors 

Overalls - Wearable art?

When does a pair of overalls turn into wearable art? It might happen when you start to consider the overalls as a whole as a canvas for the artist. Then the mending process becomes an artistic process and it can start to evolve into not only visible mending but also a "decoration" or a "painting" or simply overalls art 

Collaborative wearable art

Sharing overalls 

I share, in principle all, my overalls with my overalls sister, Thistle-Evelyn in Vermont just like she does with her overalls. We share them in several ways, wearing them half a year or so before sending them across the Atlantic. We call them for the traveling overalls, and we share them not least also by mending and stitching them, taking one half each. 

Wild overalls 

Another project I share with Evelyn is the Wild Overalls. She has brought a pair out into the woods to stay there for around a year through winter, Spring and Summer to bring them close to nature. I buried a pair for 3 months in my small forest and left them for worms and other creatures in the soil together with rusty things and digged them up and now mending and stitching them, and perhaps we will challenge them in other ways in the future in the nature around our two places on Earth. 


Patches received 

Mend and make friends - Patchswap

Within the Instagram platform, a project started by Erine @gatherwhatspills with asking all her mending friends of making a patch and swap it with friends, and it turned into a neverending project with more than 100 menders worldwide exchanging patches 

Overalls - a complex document 

Overalls can be considered as a document if it documents something for a human being. 

As overalls are ageing and change its colors and textures, they document a history, and as they get stains from being used in work or other human activity they document human life, and as they get mended they document craft and art. 

The overalls shows the relevance of the complementary theory of documentation, being a physical object as well as a social object and finally a cognitive object.