Fashion History: The Invention of Blue Jeans

Above is the picture of the patent for “Improvement in Fastening Pocket-Openings” that would become the blueprint for the blue jean.

There’s a reason Levi’s are synonymous with blue jeans. It was Levi Strauss who invented the true-blue pants. An immigrant from Bavaria, Strauss worked at his family’s dry goods store in New York when he decided to move west in hopes of making a fortune during the gold rush.

It was in San Francisco that Strauss opened his own dry goods store that counted many of the miners as customers. Over the years he became a successful businessman but that was just a taste of the success that was yet to come. Enter Jacob Davis.

Davis was a tailor in Reno, Nevada and would frequent Strauss’ store. He wrote a letter to Strauss explaining his method of tailoring pants with metal rivets at the pockets and zip front, to reinforce them for the working conditions of the miners. In the letter he stated that he didn’t have the funds to patent the design, but was hoping Strauss would supply the monetary means so the two could go into business. An enthusiastic Strauss quickly agreed and the two were granted the patent for “Improvement in Fastening Pocket-Openings” on May 20, 1873. This date is often called the birthday of blue jeans.

Image via moderhistorian

Sources history.com, About.com, modernhistorian

Designer Evolution: Alber Elbaz’s Path to Lanvin

We love Alber Elbaz and Lanvin (as evidenced here and here). So naturally, our talk about the designer’s work got us thinking — what twists and turn in his career took him to Lanvin?

YSL Spring 2000, Lanvin Fall 2009, and Lanvin Fall 2012

1979: Elbaz serves in the Israeli Army for 3 years. The term is mandatory. And because he has asthma, Elbaz is put in charge of entertainment.

1982: Studies Fashion Design at the Shenkar College of Textile Technology and Fashion.

1985: Moves to New York where he takes a job designing what he later calls “horrible mother-of-the-bride dresses.” He also drops the “t” off the end of his name at this time. He says this is because Judaism associates changing your name with changing your destiny.

1987: Begins working for Geoffrey Beene. Credits Beene with teaching him many things, including artful draping and rejection of trends.

1996: Hired as Creative Director of French Couture house Guy Laroche. Elbaz is praised for adding a contemporary touch to the collections without alienating the house’s older clients.

1998: Begins designing ready-to-wear for Yves Saint Laurent. “For me,” says Elbaz, “this isn’t a career move, but the realization of my life’s dream.”

2000: Dismissed from YSL and replaced by Tom Ford when the Gucci Group takes over YSL. This happens despite the fact that Saint Laurent was reportedly grooming Elbaz to inherit the house.

2001: Takes a sabbatical to travel through India and the Far East after a short-lived design stint at Krizia in Italy.

2001: Named Creative Director of Lanvin. Of his first collection, Vogue’s Andre Leon writes: “The debut of Alber Elbaz at that house was an elegant reality check — we could practically hear a crack of thunder over the Petit Palais.”

Did anything about Alber Elbaz’s career path surprise you?

Info Source: Voguepedia
Image Source: Style.com

How to Spot…Lanvin Accessories

We’re adding a new little segment to HowFashionWorks called “How to Spot.” We thought about how easy it is  to eyeball a Louis Vuitton or Tory Burch piece because of their signature logos, but what about the brands that like to stay more discreet? In our inaugural “How to Spot” we point out a few ways to spot a Lanvin accessory.

Lanvin adds a whimsical touch to their handbags by weaving ribbon through the chain strap and finishing it with a bow and signature medallion keychain. Now that you know isn’t it easy to spot on these fashionable ladies?

And pointer number two….

Lanvin also uses grosgrain to set their shoes apart. Whether it’s the fine trim on a pump or flat, the laces on an oxford, or a decorative bow on the side, the French fashion house is know for their love of grosgrain details.

Product Images via Lanvin.com, NiemanMarcus.com, Barneys.com

Street Style Images via chictopia.comfashioncoup.comcredstyle.com

It Bags: The Marc Jacobs Stam

Marc Jacobs named his must-have Stam bag after his friend, supermodel Jessica Stam. The satchel’s mix of ladylike and relaxed details — quilted leather, oversize kisslock closure, shoulder-slung chain strap— have made it a quiet but consistent favorite. Each season Jacobs offers the Stam in statement and basic colors (even sequins!), and each season the designer’s devotees happily snatch it up.

Image Source: Nordstrom

Style School: Selvedge Jeans

While everyone is cooing over the latest printed and bright colored skinny jeans, let’s not forget that the original blue jean can provide sartorial satisfaction too.  This brings us to our style school lesson of the day: selvedge (or sometimes seen as selvage, selvege) jeans.

More often seen on men’s styles, selvedge refers to the weaving process of denim and is noticeable when the cuff of a jean is rolled up.

Selvedge edging can only be created with a traditional shuttle loom. Because these looms (created in the 1800s and used to make early pairs of blue jeans) require a narrower denim strip than the machines used today, there is more denim used in selvedge jeans, hence why they are usually more expensive. What’s more, when jeans were first made, the tight weaving process was continued to the very edge, which is why selvedge edging won’t unravel or fray, giving you a natural, clean edge.

Sources: DenimTherapy, RawrDenim, Denimology

Images via blog.denimtherapy.com, TaylorTailor.com, ColdWinterCollectibles, Levi’s Jeans

Shopping Tip: Ankle Boots Splurge or Steal

Nothing delivers more shopping satisfaction than finding the perfect transition piece —that special something you can wear now, later and all the times between. Ankle boots are one of these most perfect pieces. Wear them with denim cutoffs while it’s warm, and then switch to tights and dresses when Fall hits. We’ve rounded up some of our favorites. You can splurge or steal, depending on your budget. 

1. Belle by Sigerson Morrison Lamor $325 2. Rachel Comey Penpal $403 3. Rag & Bone Classic Newbury $495 4. Sam Edelman Petty $159 5.  Ecote Alexandra $69 6. Steven Friisky $150

Fashion History: The Cone Bra

Madonna donned the infamous cone bra during her 1990 Blonde Ambition tour. Designed by Jean Paul Gaultier, the cone bra epitomized his provocative aesthetic, giving him his “enfant terrible” reputation.

Gaultier took inspiration from the vintage Perma-Lift bullet bra created in the 1940s. These pointy brassieres were often worn by the famous movie actresses of the day and started the popular “sweater girl” look.

An obvious sign of sexuality, Madonna took this concept to the brink in her famous 1990 music tour by making it popular to wear underwear as outwear. Now More than 20 years later, Madonna has reprised her most famous costume for her MDNA tour.

Sources: NYMagTheStyleNotebook, BulletBra.org

Images: InStyle, Flickr, Huffington Post, BulletBra.org

It Bags: The Proenza Schouler PS1

For our It Bags installment this week, we take a modern turn with the PS1 by Proenza Schouler. The design duo’s first handbag, the PS1 has been a fixture on the arms of celebrities and fashion leaders since its 2008 release. Luxurious yet wearable, the PS1 is available in a dizzying array of colors, materials and designs. In a perfect world, we’d collect them all.

Purchase your own PS1 here. It comes in 9 different silhouettes to suit your toting needs.

Image Source: Chi City Fashion

Fashion History: The Origin of the Stiletto Heel

Named after an Italian dagger, stiletto heels are one of the most well-known (and well-loved) silhouettes in fashion — but did you know they’ve only been around since the 1950s? Previously, heels had to be thick and sturdy because they were made out of materials such as wood. However the brilliant idea to use a thin, supportive steel rod to reinforce the heel changed everything.

Sketches from Manolo Blahnik, a master of the stiletto silhouette

This steel rod makes a stiletto a stiletto and allowed designers to make heels taller, thinner and sexier than ever. A bit of controversy surrounds the stiletto: Both Salvatore Ferragamo and Roger Vivier (who was designing for Christian Dior at the time) take credit for the stiletto and introduced the style in 1953. Regardless of who conceived the ingenious construction, we thank them for allowing us to walk a little taller, feel a little more confident, and (let’s be honest) look a little thinner.

Info Source: Worsley, Harriet. 100 Ideas That Changed FashionLondon: Laurence King Publishing Ltd, 2011. Print.
Image Source: Manolo Blahnik