Overalls And Gingham YKTTW Discussion

Overalls And Gingham
Denim overalls or gingham dress = farmer
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(permanent link) added: 2012-07-15 10:31:36 sponsor: Goldfritha edited by: Antigone3 (last reply: 2015-02-04 11:13:22)

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(On launch, this will go on the Stock Costume Traits page. I'm leaving the working title alone for now, but it'll most likely change.)

When a male character is from a rural setting, a common visual shorthand to establish this is to put the character in denim overalls. For bonus points, put him in a checked shirt (often made of gingham, a medium-weight checked cotton). He normally wears a hat; straw in a historical setting, a baseball cap if he's from a modern farm.

Female characters from rural settings, depending on the time period, may wear either denim or gingham. Tomboys and/or modern characters will often wear denim jeans; Ms. Fanservice favors denim "Daisy Dukes" (ultra-short shorts). More "feminine" characters, or those from times that didn't approve of women in pants, will wear gingham dresses. Either version is the normal attire of the Farmer's Daughter.

It's usually safe to assume a character dressed in denim or gingham will share some of the common rural traits. Whether they're negative or positive traits will depend on the approach the rest of the work's taking. If rural values are approved of, expect common sense and practicality from a man in denim overalls or a woman in a gingham dress. If not, characters dressed that way will tend toward strongly conservative, bordering on (or all the way to) Luddite views.

There's a certain amount of Truth in Television here. Denim is a practical fabric for farm work, as it's washable and can take abuse. Gingham for the ladies isn't as tough a fabric, but it's still washable — and usually a woman in a gingham dress is working around the farmhouse, not plowing. It may have become popular because it's a little more fancy than a solid-colored fabric while still being very easy to make (and therefore cheap). 1800's farmers commonly wore a straw hat ... but so did most men during the summer. And baseball caps can be seen everywhere, city as well as country.

This trope is specifically for cases of denim/gingham attire as shorthand for "this character is from a farm". City teens wearing $300 fashion jeans need not apply.

Contrast with Sharp-Dressed Man or Socialite, both of whom are urban characters.


  • American Gothic, the extremely famous painting by Grant Wood, portrays a farmer and his daughter. The former has overalls and a pitchfork.

  • Nearly every cartoon, be it newspaper or animated, will give a farmer overalls and a straw hat.

Comic Book
  • In Alan Moore's Tomorrow Stories, boy genius Jack B. Quick and his farmer papa both wear overalls, and the whole family wears gingham.

  • Dorothy Gale is usually depicted wearing a gingham dress. In the 1939 film adaptation, Dorothy's blue gingham dress is almost as iconic as the ruby slippers.
  • In L. M. Montgomery's Jane of Lantern Hill, Jane wears overalls when she helps with shingling; Aunt Elmira sniffs over the appropriateness for a girl.
  • Several characters in Little House on the Prairie wear gingham dresses.
  • Ebenezar McCoy from The Dresden Files dresses like this when he's off-duty on his Missouri farm, rather than performing his duties as a Senior Council member.

Live-Action TV
  • Mary Ann on Gilligan's Island usually wore gingham (it was her iconic outfit).
  • Uncle Jesse on The Dukes of Hazzard almost always wore overalls, but he preferred a solid-colored shirt. In The Movie he wears a plaid shirt with his overalls. Luke wore a checkered shirt but jeans rather than overalls.
  • The Andy Griffith Show: Briscoe Darling (played by Denver Pyle, the same actor as Uncle Jesse) also tended towards overalls & a solid shirt.

  • Mentioned in The Producers song "Betrayed," where Bialystock has a My Life Flashed Before My Eyes moment:
    I see my mother standing on the back porch, in a worn but clean gingham gown, and I hear her calling out to me, "Alvin! Don't forget your chores. The wood needs a-cordin and the cows need a-milkin'. Alvin, Alvin..." Wait a minute! My name's not Alvin! That's not my life. I'm not a hillbilly. I grew up in the Bronx.

Tabletop Games
  • 2nd Edition Dungeons & Dragons Monstrous Compendium Annual Volume Two. The dobie was a type of brownie that lived in rural areas, such as farms. It was pictured as being dressed in farmer's clothing, including overalls.
  • Field spirits in Shadowrun dress like this when they take a humanoid form.

  • The Broadway musical Leave It to Me! has a Dream Sequence where Goodhue returns to his native Topeka and goes home to find his wife (normally a Rich Bitch) sitting on the gate in a bonnet and a gingham dress.

Video Games
  • The main character in most of the games in the Harvest Moon series wears denim overalls, along with a backwards baseball cap and a neckerchief for wiping sweat.

Web Comics

Western Animation
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