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Catwalk-worthy coveralls

Right about the time of the first snowfall, every winter, my mom would decide that Dad's coveralls were too worn to last one more season. Now, if Mom had asked Dad's opinion on the matter, he would have told her he had just broken them in enough to be comfortable, and that he didn't mind the holes in his elbows and on each knee.

Mom, on the other hand, wasn't about to let him out in public in ratty coveralls. She'd sooner see him running through the streets of Woodbine, Kan., in a Speedo.

It's no wonder that Mom always won this particular fashion battle, and Dad would inevitably be loaded up into the family car on his way to town to shop for a new pair of insulated coveralls.

Like the trooper he is, Dad rarely complained. Of course, the stop by the Dairy Queen on the way home may have helped some. We've found through trial and error that it's easier to get Dad to do unpleasant tasks if there's ice cream involved at some point in the process.

Shopping in any form was one such task.

Coverall shopping used to be such a hassle. Finding just the right cookie-cutter size off the rack that would fit Dad's six-foot-plus, string bean frame was no simple matter. If the arms were long enough, the legs usually weren't, and vice versa. And, it's not like shopping for shoes, or handbags, or jewelry, where you can eyeball the fit. Trying on coveralls in the aisle of the store was a huge undertaking, resulting in many audible sighs of frustration and a few muttered vocabulary choices unrepeatable in print.

Coveralls, as a rule, had to have been designed by a man, because no woman in her right mind would design something so utilitarian and shapeless. Ask any woman and she'll tell you, there's no reason to make chore time such a drab affair.

But really, only men would design something that only comes in three cookie-cutter sizes, in one color, and makes you look like you're headed to the Moon on the next shuttle. Back then, you had two choices in coveralls--brown bib, or a brown one-piece. To paraphrase old Mr. Ford, you could have any choice of color, as long as your choice was brown. There were no Hunter Safety oranges, or choice of camouflage fabrics, unless you wanted to special order them from some catalog. Forget designer labels, too. Coveralls were anything but fashion statements.

Somewhere between then and now, though, I think a bright executive at some company decided to hire a female to start designing coveralls. So, today you can walk into any farm supply or discount store and find a rack of various styles and colors of coveralls to choose from, in your choice of fabrics and insulation levels. There are coveralls for hunters, construction crews, and even in styles for women and children. You can buy baby bib overalls in Real Tree Camouflage, and I've even seen insulated coveralls for women in fashionable colors that will actually fit.

I started thinking the other day, though. Why stop the fashion carousel at only coveralls? I could start a company that makes catwalk-worthy chore apparel. Why let all those snooty fashion designers in Paris, Milan and New York have all the fun?

I'd have a line of rhinestone-studded coveralls, for those times when you want to dazzle the local veterinarian, or just feel like brightening up your morning feed run. I could add a touch of glitz and glam to accessories, from five-buckle overboots to insulated leather gloves.

Maybe it would catch on, and the coverall trend would sweep the nation. Just imagine, the next episode of "Project Runway" could have the contestants designing coveralls for a feedyard receiving crew. Or, maybe even the fashionistas of 5th Avenue would turn their focus to the prairies for the next hot thing.

I could probably even get Dad to be a model, as long as there was an ice cream cone in it for him.

Jennifer M. Latzke can be reached by phone at 620-227-1807, or by e-mail at jlatzke@hpj.com.


Date: 1/13/09

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