Whats the Difference Between Overalls and Coveralls

Understanding the difference between Overalls vs Coveralls is essential for anyone in occupations requiring specialized clothing for protection or functionality. This article will help you explore the key differences, similarities, pros, and cons of each, along with the situations where one may be preferable over the other.

What is the Main Difference Between Overalls and Coveralls?

The main difference between Overalls and Coveralls is that overalls are a garment traditionally made with bibs and straps that cover only the upper body and must be worn over clothing like shirts and trousers, whereas coveralls are a one-piece suit designed to cover the entire body, including the arms and legs. Overalls are often used for specialized tasks that don’t require full-body protection but need extra support and pockets for tools, such as carpentry or gardening. Coveralls, on the other hand, are generally used in settings that require more comprehensive protection against hazards, such as automotive repair, chemical laboratories, or industrial work environments. Both are made from a variety of materials to suit specific occupational needs, but the key distinction lies in the area of the body they are designed to cover.

What is Overalls and what is Coveralls?

Overalls are a type of garment that typically covers the upper body and legs. They are characterized by a “bib” front that rises over the chest area and is held in place by straps over the shoulders. Overalls are often worn over regular clothes and are used in a variety of occupations and recreational activities.

Coveralls are similar to overalls but are a one-piece garment that covers the entire body, including arms and legs. They are often equipped with zippers or other fastenings that run from the front to the back and sometimes also have hoods, making them ideal for full-body coverage. They are usually worn in workplaces that require a high level of protection against hazards such as chemicals, dust, or other potentially harmful substances.

Key differences between Overalls and Coveralls

  1. Coverage Area: Overalls generally cover only the legs and upper torso, whereas coveralls offer full-body coverage, including the arms and sometimes the head.
  2. Use-Case: Overalls are often used for jobs that require partial body protection like carpentry, farming, or gardening. Coveralls are used in settings demanding comprehensive protection such as in chemical labs or auto repair shops.
  3. Material: Overalls are usually made of sturdy fabrics like denim or canvas. Coveralls may be made from specialized materials that are flame-resistant, chemical-resistant, or otherwise suited to specific hazards.
  4. Fastenings: Overalls use straps to secure the garment over the shoulders, whereas coveralls usually have a front zipper or other fastening mechanisms for easier donning and doffing.
  5. Additional Features: Coveralls often come with added features like hoods, boot covers, or elastic cuffs to provide enhanced protection, which is rarely the case with overalls.
  6. Flexibility: Overalls tend to offer greater flexibility and are easier to get in and out of, as they are less constrictive than coveralls.
  7. Pockets and Storage: Overalls usually have multiple pockets and sometimes loops for tools, designed for handy storage. Coveralls may or may not have these features.
  8. Ventilation: Overalls, being open at the chest and back, provide better ventilation. Coveralls are generally less breathable due to their comprehensive coverage.
  9. Layering: Overalls are meant to be worn over other clothes, whereas coveralls can be a standalone garment or be worn over other clothes for extra protection.

Key similarities between Overalls and Coveralls

  1. Primary Purpose: Both garments are designed primarily for work and offer some level of protection against workplace hazards.
  2. Durability: Both overalls and coveralls are made to be durable and withstand the rigors of physical labor or exposure to various elements.
  3. Functional Design: Both types of garments usually feature functional elements like pockets or loops to carry tools or other essentials.
  4. Material Variety: Both come in a range of materials suited for different occupational needs, from cotton and denim to flame-resistant and chemical-resistant fabrics.
  5. Occupational Use: Both are commonly used in a variety of professions that require protective clothing, though the specific occupations may differ.
  6. Ease of Care: Both garments are generally designed to be easy to clean and maintain, given their work-oriented nature.
  7. Adaptability: Both types of garments are versatile and can be adapted for use in various tasks, beyond their primary intended purpose.
  8. Basic Structure: Both garments, at their most basic level, are a set of connected fabric panels designed to provide some level of bodily coverage and protection.

Pros of Overalls over Coveralls

  1. Ventilation: Overalls generally offer better ventilation compared to coveralls because they are open at the chest and back. This is particularly beneficial in warmer climates or for tasks that cause you to sweat.
  2. Ease of Movement: With less overall fabric and fewer enclosures, overalls typically allow for greater flexibility and ease of movement, making them more comfortable for extended periods of wear.
  3. Quick Access: Overalls are easier to put on and take off compared to coveralls, offering more convenience during short breaks or when transitioning between different tasks.
  4. Storage Options: Overalls often feature a range of pockets and loops specifically designed for tools or personal items, making them highly functional for certain jobs like carpentry, farming, or fishing.
  5. Layering Flexibility: Because they are designed to be worn over regular clothing, overalls can be easily layered to suit a variety of weather conditions.
  6. Affordability: Generally speaking, overalls are often less expensive than coveralls because they require less material and are simpler in design.
  7. Style Versatility: Overalls come in a variety of styles and materials, making them suitable for both work and casual wear in some settings.

Cons of Overalls compared to Coveralls

  1. Limited Protection: Overalls offer less comprehensive protection against environmental hazards such as chemicals, dust, and debris, making them unsuitable for some work conditions.
  2. Lack of Full-Body Coverage: Because they only cover the legs and upper torso, overalls leave arms and sometimes even the back exposed, which can be a downside in certain occupational settings.
  3. Absence of Specialized Features: Unlike coveralls, which may come with hoods, boot covers, or other specialized features, overalls are generally more basic in design.
  4. Risk of Snagging: The straps and loose fit of overalls can pose a risk of snagging on machinery or obstacles, potentially causing injury or damage.
  5. Not for Cleanroom Use: Overalls are not suitable for environments that require sterile conditions, such as cleanrooms or labs, where coveralls are generally more appropriate.
  6. Limited Material Options: While coveralls are available in specialized materials for different hazards, overalls are generally made from standard fabrics like denim or canvas, offering fewer options for specialized protection.
  7. Inconsistency in Fit: Overalls can vary greatly in fit from one manufacturer to another, sometimes causing discomfort or hindrance in movement.

Pros of Coveralls over Overalls

  1. Comprehensive Protection: Coveralls offer full-body coverage, making them suitable for jobs that require protection against environmental hazards like chemicals, paint, or dust.
  2. Specialized Features: Many coveralls come with added features like hoods, boot covers, or elastic cuffs to provide even more protection against specific workplace hazards.
  3. Convenience: The one-piece design means you only have one garment to put on and take off, making it more convenient in certain scenarios.
  4. Consistency in Material: Because coveralls are a single piece, there is consistency in material throughout the garment, ensuring uniform protection.
  5. Sterile Environments: Coveralls are often more suitable for environments requiring high levels of cleanliness or sterility, such as labs or cleanrooms.
  6. Reduced Risk of Exposure: With no gaps between upper and lower pieces, as in overalls, coveralls offer reduced risk of exposure to harmful substances.
  7. Variety in Material: Coveralls can be made from specialized materials like flame-resistant fabric or chemical-resistant materials, offering a range of options for specific occupational needs.

Cons of Coveralls compared to Overalls

  1. Heat and Discomfort: The comprehensive coverage can make coveralls hotter and less breathable, especially in warm environments.
  2. Limited Mobility: The full-body design can sometimes restrict movement, making it less comfortable for extended wear.
  3. Expense: Coveralls usually cost more than overalls due to the greater amount of material used and the specialized features they often include.
  4. Inconvenience for Partial Coverage: If you only need to protect part of your body, the full-body nature of coveralls can be an inconvenience.
  5. Storage Limitations: While some designs include pockets, they are generally fewer and less accessible than those on overalls, providing less storage for tools or personal items.
  6. Complicated to Don and Doff: Putting on and removing coveralls can be more time-consuming than with overalls, especially those designs with additional protective features like hoods or boot covers.

Situations when Overalls are better than Coveralls

  1. Outdoor Work in Warm Climates: Overalls, with their more open design, offer better ventilation, making them more suitable for hot and humid outdoor environments.
  2. Short-Term Tasks: Overalls can be easier and quicker to put on and take off, making them a better choice for jobs that require frequent clothing changes or breaks.
  3. Jobs Requiring Mobility: Overalls often allow for greater flexibility and range of movement, making them more suited for tasks that require physical agility, such as climbing or heavy lifting.
  4. Work Needing Specialized Tools: Overalls frequently come with multiple pockets and loops, which are ideal for carrying a range of tools—making them useful for carpenters, electricians, and others who need quick access to specialized tools.
  5. Recreational Use: Overalls are also more versatile for casual or recreational use, such as fishing or gardening, where full-body protection isn’t needed but pockets for storage are beneficial.
  6. Multi-Temperature Environments: Overalls are easier to layer with other clothing items, making them a practical choice for work settings with varying temperature conditions.
  7. Jobs with Lower Contamination Risks: In occupations where the risk of full-body contamination is low, overalls can provide sufficient protection while offering benefits in comfort and mobility.

Situations when Coveralls are better than Overalls

  1. Chemical and Hazardous Material Handling: Coveralls offer full-body protection and are suitable for environments that involve handling or exposure to chemicals or other hazardous materials.
  2. Sterile Environments: For work settings like cleanrooms or labs that require a sterile environment, coveralls are often mandatory to minimize contamination.
  3. Prolonged Exposure to Elements: Jobs that require long periods of exposure to elements like wind, water, or cold conditions may benefit from the full-body coverage of coveralls.
  4. Automotive and Mechanical Work: For jobs that involve crawling under vehicles or machinery, the complete coverage provided by coveralls can offer better protection against grease, dirt, and potential hazards.
  5. Fire or Flame Exposure: Flame-resistant coveralls are better suited for jobs where there is a risk of exposure to fire or high heat, such as welding or firefighting.
  6. Jobs Requiring Full-Body Cleanliness: For tasks that require the worker to remain clean and free of any external contaminants, such as painting or food processing, coveralls are more appropriate.
  7. Construction Sites with Higher Safety Requirements: In construction sites that have stringent safety requirements, the comprehensive protection offered by coveralls may be a regulatory or best-practice requirement.
  8. Biohazard and Medical Settings: In environments where there is a risk of biological contamination, coveralls offer the necessary level of protection to reduce that risk.


How should I clean and maintain overalls or coveralls?
Proper cleaning and maintenance depend on the material and the manufacturer’s instructions. Generally, overalls made from cotton or denim can be machine-washed, while coveralls made of specialized materials may require professional cleaning.

Can overalls and coveralls be worn in any season?
While both types can technically be worn in any season, coveralls may be too warm for summer months, whereas overalls are more adaptable and can be layered with other clothing for cooler weather.

What sizes do overalls and coveralls come in?
Both come in a wide range of sizes, usually based on regular clothing sizes. It’s important to consult the sizing chart from the manufacturer for accurate fitting, especially for coveralls which need to offer full-body protection.

Are there gender-specific options for overalls and coveralls?
Yes, both overalls and coveralls come in styles designed for men and women, accommodating differences in body shape and fit. Some brands also offer unisex options.

What additional safety features should I look for?
Depending on the job requirements, you may need additional safety features like flame resistance, chemical resistance, or high-visibility colors. Always consult the safety guidelines specific to your work environment when choosing.

Overalls vs Coveralls Summary

In conclusion, both overalls and coveralls offer unique advantages and disadvantages tailored for specific occupational requirements. Overalls are generally more versatile and comfortable for extended periods and are easier to layer with other clothing. They are more suitable for jobs requiring mobility and for environments where full-body protection is not a priority. On the other hand, coveralls offer comprehensive full-body coverage and are better suited for environments that require protection against chemicals, dust, and debris. They are generally more appropriate for specialized tasks that require specific protective features. Choosing between the two will depend on your specific work conditions, the level of protection you need, and your comfort preferences.

Feature / AspectOverallsCoveralls
Specialized FeaturesFewerMore
Material ChoicesVariedVaried
PocketsUsually AvailableSometimes Available
Protective QualitiesSomeHigh
ConvenienceEasier to Don and DoffOne-piece Design
ExpenseGenerally Less ExpensiveMore Expensive
Outdoor Work in Warm ClimatesSuitableLess Suitable
Sterile EnvironmentsLess SuitableSuitable
Specialized ToolsEasier to CarryFewer Pockets
Chemical HandlingLess SuitableSuitable
Overalls vs Coveralls Summary

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