Taylor’d With Style: Singing the blues...jeans that is
For more than 150 years, denim has been an enduring facet of fashion in America. Originally produced in Italy and France, denim was made popular in the United States by shop owner Levi Strauss and tailor Jacob Davis. In the late 1800s, Strauss sold the fabric to Davis from his California dry goods store.
Davis purchased this sturdy fabric to make the rugged pants needed by gold miners and cowboys. Davis’s idea to use copper rivets at stress points to increase the garments durability was patented in 1873. Today, this twill-weave of strong indigo-dyed cotton yarns is one of the world’s most frequently worn fabrics.
Slowly, but surely, denim evolved from being the fabric used to make clothing for hard-working men to a sought-after fashionable fabric for both men and women. After the end of World War I, Western movies and dude ranch vacations became popular. Wearing Western wear became a symbol of this newfound luxury and way of life. Known as “play clothes,” denim wear was also designed for women who enjoyed leisure activities such as tennis and frolicking at the beach.
World War II changed the course of fashion when women entered the workforce, but it didn’t change the fabric used. The all-in-one denim jumpsuit, personified by Rosie the Riviter, became the unofficial uniform of female factory workers. The denim “popover dress” was worn by upper-class women who suddenly found themselves doing their own housework as so many of their housekeepers went to work for the war effort.
Wearing bluejeans became controversial in the 1950s when teenagers wore them as a symbol of unrest and defiance. Denim jackets worn by gangs unified their undertaking to undermine authority. This bad-boy image, popularized by actors such as James Dean and Marlon Brando, led many schools to ban bluejeans. The 1960s introduced the free-spirited hippie movement with hip-hugging, bellbottomed, embroidered, and patchwork jeans.
During the 1970s, denim became mainstream and an essential aspect of major fashion designers. The 1980s brought in stone- and acid-washing to create unique finishes, and by the end of the 1990s bluejeans were considered to be a high fashion item with some designers selling their jeans for $3000 or higher.
All of this brings us to 2018 when cotton denim remains the most popular fabric in history. I don’t think Levi Strauss and Jacob Davis could have imagined the influence their original design would play on fashion around the world, decade after decade. Today’s denim style is as versatile as the fabric itself. Along with the traditional jean pant, you’ll find shirts, skirts, dresses, jackets, coats, and every accessory imaginable—all made from denim.
Of course, every new season brings a new spin on how to wear this enduring fabric, and there are several new fads hitting the streets now. Referred to as the “ultra cuff,” some pant legs are so long, they are turned up into cuffs that measure 15 inches or more. Another trend has the bottom of five or more jeans cut off and then sewn onto a pant leg creating rows of jean hemlines. I’ve never claimed to understand fashion, and these next two trends are a perfect example of why: “destroyed denim” and “deconstructed denim."
Destroyed denim takes an article of clothing and literally destroys it. Sleeves are cut partially off and left to hang by a thread, hemlines are slashed at the front and left long in the back, fabric of the jean pant is cut out so that only the waistband, zipper, and side seams remain. The entire leg and pockets are exposed as well as any undergarments.
“Deconstructed denim” is a method in which finished denim garments are cut apart and sewn back together in unconventional ways. Seams don’t match, random fabrics are inserted at odd points, and sleeves are put in at angles that look ridiculously uncomfortable. As a seamstress, this just gives me shivers.
If you ever said you would never wear “mom jeans” again, you may need to retract your statement. These high-waisted, medium-washed jeans are back in fashion. They are actually more flattering on mature women because they form to a woman’s natural figure.
Tucking your shirt in will help to emphasize a waistline, and with proper pocket placement, you can create the illusion of a fuller derriere, or minimize a larger one. When purchasing, remember that fit is very important. These jeans sit high on your waist so make sure they aren’t too tight in the front, or too baggy in the back.
It’s acceptable to wear the same wash for your top and bottom. This “double denim” monochromatic look can be slimming when the fabrics are the same shade of blue. It’s also trendy to wear very light washes with dark washes. Really, you can wear denim anyway that suits you.
My favorite denim garment is the “Little Denim Dress.” This dress is the answer to, “What should I wear today?” because it can be dressed up or down, and take you everywhere from the office to a night out. Summer styles can easily convert to autumn by adding a cardigan and switching from sandals to ankle boots.
While denim remains in fashion and has seen decades of growth, there has been a decline in sales the past couple of years. Women are choosing to wear stretchy yoga pants, leggings, and other athletic wear instead of traditional denim jeans.
This is a reflection of today’s casual culture, and of choosing comfort over aesthetics. Known as the “athleisure” trend, this style once worn only inside a studio or gym, is often acceptable for work, school, and just about everywhere else.
While the primary reason is comfort, the bright colors and patterns are enticing to consumers. Jean makers are avoiding the blues by designing new versions of the classic denim jean. Whatever future fashion trends come up, I’m sure denim will be on the list. I just hope the seams are sewn straight.