The union suit no longer behind the times

February 12, 1992|By Gwen Salley-Schoen | Gwen Salley-Schoen,McClatchy News Service

Like most articles of fashion, the union suit -- you do remember the union suit, don't you? -- has undergone an evolution over the decades:

The union suit of the 1880s, when it was invented, was a one-piece men's or boys' underwear made by uniting the undershirt to the drawers. Sleeves and legs could be long or short. It was basic underwear, complete with drop seat.

By 1940, the union had been divided and conquered by separate undershirts and boxer shorts, and it joined the endangered list.

Now, 1992: The union suit has been reborn, emerging as a Mallwalker suit in bossy patterns like black-and-white Holstein spots.

Crusty old pioneers would roll in laughter over the sight of Dan Turk's latest collection for Charles Goodnight Co. Mr. Turk, designer and president of the New York-based company, has resurrected the unionsuit, but he's given it a humorous twist. Instead of the standard gray or parchment shades worn in decades past, Mr. Turk has combined the elements of the union suit -- the drop seat, underwear styling and the flannel or knit fabric -- with contemporary prints to fast-forward for spring '92. Instead of a drop seat, the Mallwalker has a trap door -- a wrap-and-button version for quick escape.

"It can be worn anywhere you're comfortable wearing it," Mr. Turk says.

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