I bet most people when thinking about the history of denim (because I know you sit and ponder this stuff) they start at the rise of premium denim in the early aughties. Sure, most of know denim is older than that, but rarely do we consider it's importance prior to that magical moment when we all decided it was okay to go from paying $30 to $130 for jeans. Actually, denim has a long and important history in, well, history, pop culture and fashion that goes back over a hundred years. It's transcended apparel so much so, that it's one of the few fabrics that anyone can identify. I've held the position for a while that the Costume Institute's Met Gala should curate a denim exhibit. Imagine the awe of looking at a pair of Levi's from 1890 and wearing a pair just like it today. It doesn't look like that's in the plans for the Met Gala…yet. In the meantime, the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology just launched an exhibit about denim that explores its history all the way back to the 19th century.
The exhibit called Denim:Fashion's Frontier features about 70 items from workwear to haute couture that examines how the fabric has dominated the clothing industry around the world (I love that they say "dominated". Take that all you Denim is Dead people). Some of the items featured are a pair of embroidered Levi's from the 60's and a pair of work pants that predate even the oldest pair of Levi's discovered. Haute couture from Junya Watanabe and Roberto Cavalli runway shows are on display as well and would hold up on the runway today. My favorite, the denim leisure suit from 1973.
The Museum at FIT is free to the public. The exhibit runs until May 7th and is definitely worth seeing. Hopefully the Costume Institute will take note.