Tuesday, 7 April 2015
TREND TUESDAY: THE RISE OF DENIM
When we think of wardrobe staples or go-to outfits, jeans always come to mind. Season upon season and year upon year, denim has crafted itself a place in our wardrobes. It’s currently having a huge moment in fashion: SS15 shows saw culottes at Stella McCartney, shirtdresses at Gucci and double denim at Chloe. So what is it that gives denim such a timeless appeal? Perhaps it’s the feeling of pulling on a wonderfully fitting pair of jeans, that denim can form the base of any outfit, or that it’s simply so damn comfortable to wear.
Jeans as we know them originated as workwear. In 1872, tailor Jacob Davis, who’d been making clothing for miners, approached Levi Strauss with a plan to manufacture strong work clothing reinforced by copper rivets. The following year, they began to create the first pairs of 'waist overalls'.
The use of denim as workwear soon began to change. Stars including Tom Mix (The Untamed, 1920) and John Wayne (Stagecoach, 1939) popularised denim in Western films; in 1930, jeans and cowboy boots appeared in a Western Chic feature for Vogue, and World War II saw an even higher use of denim as workwear. After the war, denim began to be accepted as leisure wear. We love the way jeans were worn in the forties and fifties: Marilyn Monroe wore hip-hugging ones with rolled up cuffs, Rita Hayworth paired them with a tucked in check shirt, while Grace Kelly gave denim her signature elegance by wearing it with a floral blouse.
Following the appearance of James Dean and Marlon Brando in 1955’s Rebel without a Cause and the 1959 hit Blue Denim (think white t-shirts, biker jackets and...erm, blue denim), jeans gained popularity amongst young people, but still weren't considered appropriate for everyday wear.
Among our favourite outfits in the sixties were Jean Seberg's classic Breton top worn with rolled up jeans, and Jane Birkin's simple white tops with denim flares. Manufacturers created new styles (jackets, suits, skirts and hats) to popularise denim. By the seventies, it was mass-produced and worn as everyday wear. The decade's jeans were decorated with appliqué, fabric paint and patches (something we won’t be trying just yet!). In spring 1976, Calvin Klein became the first fashion house to feature jeans on a designer runway, dressing a model in a slim cut pair in his New York Fashion Week collection.
Next season, denim continues its moment, with high-waisted flares and shirtdresses set to trend. We’re sure that can only be a good thing.
Words by Anam Rahim