It Started with Monroe - The Popularisation of Jeans for Women

It Started with Monroe - The Popularisation of Jeans for Women

It's difficult to find a garment as widely embraced, worn and loved around the world as jeans. You will find some version of jeans in almost everyone's wardrobe. Age, gender, style or demographic don't seem to be a barrier into owning a pair of denim pants. So how did this clothing item - created out of a need for practicality and durability for the working class man - become the world's most loved fashion item?

There’s a whole depth of reason for the popularisation of jeans. In this post, we wanted to talk about how this clothing item, originally made for men, became a must have wardrobe staple for women.

Women dabbled in the man's wardrobe during war times, when they found themselves taking on work that had previously been only for the men. The item they would often grab was jeans. Even after the war, women were found wearing mens jeans for work around farms and in the garden. 

Levi's caught onto this and were the first to make jeans specifically cut for women in 1934 - the lady Levi's (pictured below). This was very progressive of Levi’s, to create a cut for the female figure. They became the pants women wore for all their chores, working on farms, and were very popular amongst horse owners. It was yet to be considered a fashionable item though, and was not worn for anything other than outdoor work.

Lady Levis - Womens jeans

I'm having a fit - ladies levis vintage

Fashionable men’s jeans were first popularised by movie stars who wore them, with a combination of big changes in the political climate and the pop culture. This was much the same for women's jeans. 

Marilyn Monroe was one of the first female movie stars to wear jeans - and she looked amazing in them. She wore them in arguably her best movie, The Misfits (1961), where she played a woman who went off with a group of cowboys. Her outfit was essentially the female version of James Dean’s Rebel Without a Cause (1955) outfit (who played a role in popularising jeans for men).

Monroe in the missfits


Monroe in missfits

Monroe in set of missfits

missfits denim jeans

Monroe, who was usually depicted in a hyper sexualised way, was suddenly so pared back. She was so comfortable and so relatable in her tomboyish looks. It was how she would continue to wear jeans off set that made people fall in love with this look. She seemed so comfortable, so much herself. Women were so ready for this change and the freedom in sexuality and equality in gender it enveloped. A moment in time, of breaking down the stereotypes of gender roles. 

In jeans, white shirt and a men's denim jacket, somehow Monroe looked sexier then ever, and the young people wanted to capture that same look and feel. It was a style that was so easy and effortless to mimic. So accessible to the everyday woman. It was a style she would in fact wear in her everyday life.

It is said that she would wear her brand new jeans into the ocean, so the denim would cling to her form, then she would lay in the sun so they would dry and perfectly mold to her shape (something which become common for wearers of the original unsanforized, selvedge denim jeans - something we'll talk more on in future posts). 

So, the lady Levis took off and other denim brands followed suit.

Over the years jeans have become a staple in pop culture fashion trends.You wouldn't see a youth who didn’t own a pair.

Jeans have evolved and changed so much since the days of Monroe. There are endless versions, with varying qualities. When designing our first jeans Freya, we wanted to take a little step back in time - before mass production - and be inspired by some of the original and timeless denim cuts and quality. 

What I love about these denim outfits on Monroe is that you could wear them today, and look completely current. Yet this look was created over 70 years ago - it is timeless.

There's nothing like looking back at fashion over the years and finding which pieces have stood the test of time, your classic jeans are just that - classic.