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Work-Inspired Overalls Offer Flexibility and Style


A casual combinaison. ©Color & Design Research Room of Kyoritsu Women's Junior College

An item of clothing called a combinaison has recently become popular among young women in Japan. This word, which comes from the French for "combination," refers to a single garment combining a top with pants. Dresses have dominated the streets for some time, but it seems that some women have shifted away from the one-piece dress. Tapping into a more general trend to emphasize less feminine and toward a more boyish ambience, the combinaison, which can be worn to give either a casual or chic appearance, is gaining more and more fans.

Inspired by Work Clothing
The combinaison is a garment that English speakers might call an "overall" or French speakers a "salopette." These items have their roots in work clothes worn over one's regular clothes to keep them from getting dirty while doing manual labor. Overalls tend to have buckles and buttons on the chest area, as well a number of pockets and loops around the waist to hang hammers and other tools. This functionality shows the origins of overalls as work clothes.


An elegant style. ©Color & Design Research Room of Kyoritsu Women's Junior College

From around last year, women in their twenties or thereabouts started wearing denim combinaison in sizes that were deliberately a little too large. This stemmed from a preference for a boyish look, and the combinaison began to become widespread as a fashion item.

Variation and Versatility
In parallel with this development, many brands and shops started to put out new designs of combinaison in an effort to target young women. In addition to the original loose-fitting denim type, a number of other designs emerged, including some whose legs have a slim silhouette, some that have short pants or a pant skirt, some with billowy sleeves, some with a slimmed-down top half to make the wearer appear more slender, and others that have a wraparound chest. Another variation of combinaison has a skirt attached at the bottom.


A combinaison with short pants. ©Color & Design Research Room of Kyoritsu Women's Junior College

There are also an increasing number of variations regarding the material combinaison are made of. Aside from denim, these garments are being made out of cotton, linen, and wool. The lineup for the coming fall and winter is already appearing in stores, and it unfolds new styles of combinaison made with classy materials like silk, georgette, and satin, lending an air of formality and elegance.

Another reason the combinaison is drawing such attention is that it gives the wearer the ability to easily change her look by combining it with other clothes and accessories, making it more alterable than a one-piece dress. A combinaison can be worn with a vest on top or with a t-shirt underneath, and stockings can be worn underneath the short-pants type. Women can also complement their combinaison with the addition of a felt hat or stylish belt, and the garments go well with both high heels or sneakers. (October 2008)