How History Has Shaped Our Jeans (Part 2)
As I argue in the first article about how history has shaped our jeans, the transition of riveted blue jeans into fashion started as early as the 1930s. But it was the ‘designer jeans’ of the 1970s that brought blue jeans to the masses and consolidated their position as a staple of mainstream fashion.
To understand how blue jeans made the leap into fashion, we need to look at their evolution from the 1930s to the 1970s. And, most importantly, we need to look at how that evolution was prompted by shifts in influence on women’s fashion between the US and Europe.
The four parts of the series about how history has shaped our jeans are:
From the Great Depression to the 1960s: French Couture Mixed With Denim
The French fashion scene has unquestionably been the most influential throughout history. In the US—the home of blue jeans—women’s fashion was dominated by the French up until the time of the Great Depression. But, during the 1930s, American fashion became more practical as a reflection of the times. And as a consequence of the outbreak of WWII, the supply of French couture was halted.
Several American designers seized this opportunity. One of them was Claire McCardell. With the zeitgeist of the time, she turned to more durable fabrics such as denim.
Regarded as one of the contributors to what’s been dubbed the ‘American Look’—a sportswear-focused fashion movement of the ‘30s and ‘40s—McCardell used denim to make styles like popover dresses for housewives.
It wasn’t haute couture—far from it—but it wasn’t riveted blue jeans either. These reasonably priced garments combined the elegance of women’s styles with the practicality of denim.
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