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

Fashion History: The Christian Louboutin Red Sole

 

The signature accent that launched a lawsuit and a thousand imitations, the red sole allows us to spot a Christian Louboutin pump from across the room. The famous finishing accent has become a status symbol, accompanying the strut of your favorite celebs and infamous Real Housewives alike. But where did Mr. Louboutin come up with this ingenius accent? In an interview with ABC News, Louboutin tells the story:

I had a girl working with me, trying on the shoes so when she was not trying on shoes, she sort of had nothing to do, so she was sort of waiting, and, so she was doing her nails, at that time… and I thought, why, this black has to be the red! So I grabbed her nail polish, and painted the soles.

Now in his 20th year of designing shoes, Louboutin takes his sole very seriously. Last spring, Louboutin filed a lawsuit against Yves Saint Laurent for selling shoes with a red sole, a concept his design house trademarked in 2008. Yves Saint Laurent ended up winning the case, but the battle wages on in a court of appeals.

Aside from the red sole, a Christian Louboutin shoe is a work of art, handmade and reflecting forward-thinking fashion. But for those of us who cannot afford the sometimes thousand(s)-dollar pair of shoes, there are ways to get a red soled shoe of your own. The UK company Save Your Sole sells well-made red soles that you can add to your own pumps, or you can do what Louboutin himself did and simply paint yours with red nail polish for a fun (but short-lived, unfortunately) red sole of your own.

 
Sources from ABC News and Fashionista

Fashion History: Why Do We Wear White Wedding Dresses?

Wedding dresses weren’t always white — at least not until Queen Victoria married Prince Albert in 1840. And though she wasn’t the first woman to wear white at her wedding, she’s why Western women do today. Instead of sliver or gold royal robes, Queen Victoria chose a white satin and lace dress. Her risky yet rewarding sartorial decision caught women’s attention, and white gowns became the norm by the 1920s.

“The Marriage of Queen Victoria & Prince Albert” by George Hayter

Before Queen Victoria, women traditionally wore blue, pink, their favorite color, or even black on their special day — it all depended on their social position. If you were wealthy, you could afford to wear a lightly hued gown; if you weren’t, you chose a less delicate dress you could wear several more times. But Queen Victoria’s example coupled with the blurring of class lines prompted the proliferation of white dresses. As social status became less defined by clothing, more women wore similar gowns on their wedding days. White gowns became available at many price points and were no longer reserved for the rich.

But what about white as a symbol of purity? This connection is simply a modern notion, resulting from the popularity of white wedding dresses. Blue historically represented purity and virginity — that is, until Queen Victoria came along.

Info Source: Worsley, Harriet. 100 Ideas That Changed Fashion. London: Laurence King Publishing Ltd, 2011. Print.

Word of the Day: Ready-to-Wear

If you’ve worked in retail, you’re probably familiar with the term “ready-to-wear” and maybe even the French “prêt-à-porter.” And if not, chances are you find the term self explanatory. But why do we use this term? Isn’t everything we buy ready to wear?

prêt–à–por·ter \ˌpret-ä-pȯr-ˈtā\: French for ready-made clothing; clothing intended for wear with little or no alterations; first known use 1959

Fast, fabulous mass-produced fashions from Forever21

Until the 1920s, most women’s clothing was custom-made at home or by professional tailors and dressmakers. (The U.S. Department of Agriculture didn’t even began collecting women’s body measurements for standard sizing until 1937.) But the improvement of industrial production techniques, the rise of the advertising industry, the growth of the urban professional class, and the development of national markets through chain stores and mail order catalogs caused the ready-to-wear industry to grow and flourish. Ready-to-wear clothing became easier to obtain and replace than custom-made garments. As a result, ready-to-wear clothing became the modern, fashionable choice.

While most of us buy ready-to-wear (RTW) clothing that is mass-produced in factories, the term still contrasts customized haute couture and bespoke clothing. Many of fashion’s most famous houses  produce both RTW and haute couture collections each season, and bespoke men’s suiting remains a respected craft.

Do you have any custom-made clothing, or is your wardrobe strictly ready-to-wear?

Info Source: National Institue of Standards & Technology
Image Source: Forever 21 Blog