”Denim: Fashion’s Frontier” exhibition coming at the FIT Museum

Junya Watanabe, dress, repurposed denim, spring 2002, Japan, museum purchase, 2006.55.1. Photograph by William Palmer

Denim has become one of the world’s most beloved fabrics. According to anthropologist Daniel Miller, “On any given day, nearly half the world’s population is in jeans.” The cultural significance of this has yet to be fully determined. Denim: Fashion’s Frontier will explore the dynamic history of denim and its relationship with high fashion from the 19th century to the present. The exhibition will trace denim from its origins in work wear of the 19th century, through its role as a symbol of counterculture rebellion in America, to its acceptance into mainstream culture. It will culminate with the arrival of blue jeans as luxury items during the late 20th century, and denim’s subsequent deconstruction by contemporary designers through postmodern pastiche and experimentation.

Alongside this chronology, Denim: Fashion’s Frontier will highlight important points of engagement between high fashion and denim that are often left out of typical denim histories. Themes addressed will include the role of advertising in creating popular mythologies, as well as issues of distressing, connoisseurship, and environmental concerns. The goal will be to shed new light on one of the world’s most popular types of clothing, and to explore how a particular style of woven cotton has come to dominate the clothing industry.

Claire McCardell, “Pop Over” dress, denim, 1942, USA, gift of Bessie Susteric for the McCardell Show, 72.54.1
Levi Strauss & Co., jeans, hand-embroidered denim, circa 1969, USA, gift of Jay Good, 80.176.1
Roberto Cavalli, ensemble, embroidered denim, spring 2003, Italy, Gift of Roberto Cavalli, 2003.45.2
Walking suit, striped denim, circa 1915, USA, museum purchase, P85.35.2

Fashion & Textile History Gallery
December 1, 2015 – May 7, 2016

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