Comfortable yet sturdy, bib overalls are a uniquely American garment, first worn by laborers and farmers during the late 1800s. They went coed during World War II when women took over manufacturing jobs vacated by military draftees and volunteers. Full of useful pockets and loose enough to be comfortable, bib overalls are available for everyone from babies to grannies. Adding lace, embroidery or contrasting fabrics to a restyled set of unused or secondhand overalls will personalize a full-length, maternity, toddler or child's dress.
Wash and dry the overalls several times to soften the denim. Wash and dry any extra fabric once before use. Press out creases or wrinkles on the overalls, especially along seams, using a hot steam iron.
Measure the desired length of the skirt from the waistband, and add 1 inch to the total. Mark the measurement on either side of both legs with a washable fabric marker, tailor's chalk or sewing pins.
Lay the overalls flat on a table or work surface, and cut off the legs at the hem marks. Use the excess fabric for the skirt inserts if you are not planning to use another fabric.
Cut open the seams along both inner legs and the crotch area using a seam ripper. Open about 3 inches of the vertical seams leading to the zipper on the front and along the back center seam. Pick off and discard all original seam threads. Press along the opened seams to keep the fold intact.
Try on or hang the overalls on a dressmaker's form. Pin the double-seamed front side of the opened crotch seam on top of the other side, angling the fabric so it hangs naturally. Do the same with the back seam.
Cut 2 triangular pieces of excess leg fabric or purchased fabric for the front and back center skirt panels about 1 inch larger on all sides for seam allowances. Pin the panels to the underside of the skirt at the front and back.
Stitch the front panel to the main garment on the front of the skirt, beginning at the raw hem edge and following the original seam stitching. Sew the seam up to the fly, turn the garment and stitch on the other side of the panel. Do the same on the back of the skirt. Turn the dress inside out, and trim excess fabric close to the seams.
Trim the raw edges even along the bottom, if necessary. Fold under the raw hem edge 1/2 inch, and iron the fold. Fold the hem another 1/2 inch, pin it in place and stitch a seam along the inside edge of the fold. Press the finished dress.
Add colorful denim prints as contrasting skirt inserts.