marilyn in denim

With the exception of Coco Chanel who declared blue jeans as “horrible”, I think it’s safe to say that most people – one in two of us, apparently – put on a pair of jeans in the morning. Who would have thought that denim, the humble cloth originating from De Nimes in France in the 1800s, would stand the test of time to become the world’s most versatile fabric, used across the board to make everything from workwear to haute couture dresses?

It was made into dungarees for wartime factory workers…


Used to make sturdy workwear for cowboys…


It was worn by actors…




Jane Birkin jeans


Pop stars…


For its latest exhibition, Denim: Fashion’s Frontier, the Museum at FIT delves into its vast denim collection to tell the story of the fabric’s history – from 19th century workwear shown alongside an early 20th-century prison uniform, a striped women’s “walking suit” and World War Two-era jumpsuits made famous by ‘Rosie the Riveter’. It continues through the 1950s the 1960s, when hippies claimed denim as part of their movement and bell-bottoms and embroidered styles became popular. In the 1970s, designers such as Yves Saint Laurent took the fabric mainstream by including it in his Rive Gauche collections. Here’s a little sneak peek:

Men’s work pants, circa 1840, the oldest piece of denim in FIT’s collection.

Jumpsuit, circa 1942-45, USA.

Levi Strauss & Co., jeans, hand-embroidered denim, circa 1969, USA.

Roberto Cavalli, embroidered denim, spring 2003, Italy.

Denim: Fashion’s Frontier is open until 7 May 2016 – admission is free!

Find the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology at 227 West 27th Street.

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