The Evolution of Denim in America

Denim is one of those uniquely American garments that has continuously been able to reinvent itself to suit the changing cultural and stylistic landscape. Starting as a simple workman’s garment, jeans have retained basically the same structure since the addition of riveted seams in 1873, a testament to their design. Building off that fundamental construction, jeans have evolved into a variety of styles their creator could have scarcely imagined.

Having started as a hearty dungaree – think overalls – the denim we see on the shelves today is as varied as it is unrecognizable when compared to those first pairs. So let’s take a look at a few styles that have ebbed, flowed and ultimately caught the attention of the fashion set over the decades.

History of Denim

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Western Jeans
Long thought of as a purely ‘Wild West’ fashion style unfit for the rest of the country, blue jeans were ultimately carried across the nation thanks to an unlikely champion: Hollywood.

In the 1930s, the genre of the ‘Western’ film became hugely popular, and with it so did the leading man’s uniform of choice: blue jeans. Made from medium-weight denim and decorated with elaborate stitching, this was a working man’s pant with an extra bit of flourish. Actors like John Wayne typified the kind of hyper-masculinity the style quickly became associated with.

Today, Western-style denim has become as popular as the musical genre, with Western jeans being more suited to the runway than the ranch. Though complex stitching still characterizes the style, the denim is much lighter than actual working ranch denim and typically incorporates a stretch element into the fabric.

Bell-Bottoms
Though bell-bottoms may be synonymous with the hippie/counterculture movements of the 1960s, they actually emerged as a style in the 19th century when the US Navy adopted them as part of its uniform.

It wasn’t until the 1960s, though, that the bell-bottom style was rendered using denim, and it took off as a stylistic symbol for a freewheeling culture. Both men and women donned styles with legs that flared outwards, reaching circumferences of up to 18 inches. Patches, pins and beading all became the trendy way to set your personal pair apart from the rest.

Skinny Jeans
Most of us might think the skinny jean is a modern style, taken to comical extremes by young skaters and punks starting in the early 2000’s. The truth is that skinny jeans go back over half a century, first coming into vogue in the 1950s with ‘Greaser’ culture.

Though not a new thing in fashion by any means, skinny jeans really started to make a resurgence in the early 2000’s when young male members of punk subcultures began buying girls jeans. It’s hard to imagine that at the time a skinny jean marketed to men was nearly impossible to find.

Today the extremes of the skinny jean trend have largely dissipated, with cooler and more relaxed fits prevailing.

What Goes Around Comes Around
Ultimately, trends in denim will always be cyclical, with certain styles appearing like new concepts, only to have been brought back from decades before.

Source URLs

http://skinnyjeansme.wordpress.com/skinny-jeans-history/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bell-bottoms

http://selvedgeyard.com/2009/10/17/history-of-denim-through-the-ages-western-wear-goes-hollywood/

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-17101768

http://nakedandfamousdenim.com/2012/01/31/scratch-n-sniff-raspberry-scented-denim/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/JNCO

http://www.evo.com/how-jeans-fit-a-guide.aspx

http://nymag.com/shopping/features/47205/

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Get inspired: The AEO Holiday 2014 Collection

The wish is just the beginning. Watch our AEO Holiday 2014 video and get inspired by all the great gifts to give (and get).

Check out the full collection at ae.com.

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How To: Style Your Nightie

Ever wonder why they call it beauty sleep? Well, we like to think our cozy sleepwear has something to do with it! Blogger McKenna Bleu shows us how she styles our Lace Trim Nightie for the perfect early morning #OOTD.

Meet McKenna:
My name is McKenna Bleu, a southern girl who has always had a love for fashion. For me great style doesn’t have to cost a lot, doesn’t have to be what’s popular or limited to a certain size. Being real and having confidence is the greatest style to obtain. McKenna Bleu is just that, a site to gain fashion inspiration, travel & beauty tips. I hope you will stop by and say hello!

How To: Style Your Nightie

How To: Style Your Nightie

Get McKenna’s look: Lace Trim Nightie | Scarf (Similar) | Knee High Socks (Similar)How To: Style Your Nightie

How To: Style Your Nightie

Love McKenna’s style? Be sure to check out our How To: Style Your Romantic Lace Bralette post here! xo

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#ABOSTYLE ROUNDUP

Sit. Stay. Swagger. Last week we launched our newest pet-friendly line at AEO, American Beagle Outfitters. We’ve seen some of your furriest friends in our Pupper Jackets and Sweaters and we’ve got to admit it…your pets are so doggone cute. Check out some of our favorite ABO photos in this week’s #ABOSTYLE Roundup below.

Shop the look:
ABO Pupper Jacket

Shop the look:
ABO Selfie Beanie

Shop the look:
ABO Pupper Jacket

Shop the look:
ABO Fair Isle Sweater

Shop the look:
ABO Hump Day Beanie

Shop the look: 
ABO Fair Isle Sweater

Shop the look:
ABO Selfie Beanie

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Cozy Up Winter #OOTD

When the temperature drops, cozy loungewear is our best friend. Blogger Ally Cog shows us how she styles our Sleep Cami and Cable Knit Skinny Jogger for a lazy Saturday afternoon in our nation’s capital. Can you say layers? Yes, please!

Meet Ally:
Alison Coglianese is the Washington, D.C-based personal style and fashion blogger behind AllyCog.com.

Cozy Up Winter #OOTD

What inspired Ally’s look:
When I’m just hanging around at home, I love being in something cozy but still cute. It’s so easy to throw on a pair of old sweats, but I’ve really been trying to up my loungewear game — starting with these joggers! In addition to being adorable, they’re so incredibly soft (seriously, you should feel the inside!) and easy to move around in, which is important since I have a little one to keep up with.

Cozy Up Winter #OOTD

Cozy Up Winter #OOTD

Get Ally’s look: Sleep Cami | Cable Knit Skinny Jogger | Cardigan (Similar)

Cozy Up Winter #OOTD

Cozy Up Winter #OOTD

Need more style #OOTD inspiration? Check out our Cable Knit Skinny Jogger Style Challenge here!

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Follow Her Friday: Olivia McMillan

We’re inspired each day by the stories you share that show how you’re #AerieREAL. This week we’re sharing the story of 17-year-old Olivia McMillan, an extremely talented and determined young woman who stands for body image, beauty, and more as she breaks the pageantry mold as Miss America’s Outstanding Teen (the little sister to Miss America).

A high school student currently residing in Warner Robins, Georgia. Olivia spends each day balancing her studies, practicing her singing (she’s an unbelievable opera singer), representing young women, volunteering, and applying to colleges. Despite her successes, Olivia faced many challenges growing up and it’s the way she faced them that inspires us today.  Read on below to learn more about Olivia and to follow her journey!

Follow Her Friday: Olivia McMillan

Olivia sporting her #AerieREAL tee at school.

Aerie: Hi, Olivia! We’re so excited to talk with you. Can you tell us a little bit more about your background? 

Olivia: Like many of you, I’ve faced various challenges in my life. As a biracial baby, I was adopted by white parents in Georgia, and so was my brother. At one point I turned to emotional eating to help me cope with the special needs of my brother and the challenges it posed to my family. Singing became my refuge. I joined a local university’s children’s choir, sang with the youth from my church, and began taking classical voice lessons with a private instructor. I also discovered pageants as a wonderful opportunity to showcase my talent and develop poise and stage presence…and I was fortunate to be awarded $25,500 in scholarship money for my college education by Miss America’s Outstanding Teen!

Follow Her Friday: Olivia McMillan

Olivia, Miss America’s Oustanding Teen and and Kira Kazantsev, Miss America. – Photo by Allen Dye

Aerie: What does #AerieReal mean to you?
Olivia: I believe #AerieReal is necessary and relevant for teens all over the world, and it’s something I’ve been waiting for, for a long time. As a 5’10” biracial girl who has struggled with weight her entire life, it was hard for me to look at magazines with seemingly perfect models on the covers. I told myself that that is the way I was supposed to look, as if that form of perfection was the goal. But for me and so many others, that “goal” is unattainable. The #AerieReal campaign features beautiful and confident women who are comfortable in their own skin and refuse to be retouched to live up to society’s ideal of perfection. It is inspiring to finally be able to look at models and feel like I can relate to them. Teens everywhere can now say, “Oh, that model kind of looks like me.” They are perfect in their imperfections, giving girls everywhere the confidence to be themselves and to embrace their bodies. That is beautiful.

Follow Her Friday: Olivia McMillan

Aerie: What makes you #AerieReal?
Olivia: There are many stereotypes attached to the “pageant girl” image and because of them, I thought I could never be successful in pageants. After winning my local pageant as a size 16, many thought that I was too large to compete on the state level. I was even told I was “fat.” At 16 years old, this was really hard to hear. It made me take a good look at myself, and I realized that I wasn’t fat, but I wasn’t healthy either. I made the decision to work hard to get fit and become healthy for myself. I lost 50 pounds over the last year, and competed in my state pageant as a size 8-10. I was honored to win Miss Georgia’s Outstanding Teen, and then I went on to win the national pageant competing against 52 other young women. I refused to let anyone tell me who I should be or how I should look. I took control of my health and my body, and was able to break the pageant stereotype. I was myself through and through, and to me that is what #AerieReal is all about!

Follow Her Friday: Olivia McMillan

Olivia and her girlfriends, Laura, Kayla and Hannah hanging out on spring break.

Aerie: Where do you see yourself in three years?
Olivia: In three years, I see myself in college being a normal student. I have had a pageant title all four years of high school. It has been a blessing, but also a lot of hard work and a great deal of responsibility. It will be nice to relax and focus on school and friends. I plan to be a vocal performance major in college so it will also be pretty amazing getting to do what I love every day!

Aerie: What is your life motto?
Olivia: My life motto is “Beeee yourself.” This is a quote from the genie in Disney’s “Aladdin,” and my Dad has been saying this to me since I was a little kid. It’s definitely helped me in my experience with pageants. I used to try to be what I thought everyone else wanted. That didn’t work for me. I am a biracial girl who is adopted, has a brother with special needs, and has lost 50 pounds. I used to try to cover up my story because it made me different, but I soon realized it made me special. I learned that if I was going to be successful in pageants or life in general, I needed to be myself because everyone else is already taken!

Follow Her Friday: Olivia McMillan

Olivia and her BFF McKenzie at the Grand Canyon.

Aerie: What is your biggest accomplishment thus far?
Olivia: My biggest accomplishment is definitely winning Miss America’s Outstanding Teen. The organization is committed to helping communities, and each titleholder has a personal platform. Mine is the Sibling Support Project, which helps the brothers and sisters of children with special needs. I’m also a National Teen Goodwill Ambassador for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. I’ve had the chance to meet many incredible people, perform, speak on behalf of the MAOTeen organization and support so many important causes.
It was a long journey, but I’m so happy that I could pave the way for other girls who felt like they couldn’t succeed in pageants. I got an e-mail from a girl shortly after I won and she told me that she had never competed in pageants because she struggled with her weight. She told me that she saw me win and it inspired her to compete in her very first local pageant. I am so humbled and honored to be able to inspire others to follow their dreams. I am proud that I broke the mold of what people have always said a pageant winner should be. I am even more proud that this has given other girls the confidence to go out there and do the same!

Aerie: Do you have a role model? If so who is he/she and why does he/she inspire you?
Olivia: My role model is Kate Winslet. Not only is she an incredible actress, but she has remained so humble and grounded even in the face of huge success and stardom. She encourages women everywhere to love themselves and to love their bodies. She struggled with weight in her youth and is now a healthy weight for her. She says that she will never change who she is to fit other people’s expectations. That is so inspiring to me. I applaud her realness and her promotion of self-love. In a society where size 2 is expected, it is so beautiful to see a woman in Hollywood preaching about the importance of being healthy for your own body. She is amazing.

Follow Her Friday: Olivia McMillan

Aerie: Do you have a favorite Aerie item?
Olivia: I LOVE Aerie Sweatpants! I am a very laid back kind of girl, and when I am not making pageant appearances my style is usually pretty relaxed. Comfort is key for me, and Aerie sweatpants are so soft. They are definitely a “must have” for me!

Follow Her Friday: Olivia McMillan

Olivia with two of her best friends since childhood after winning Miss Georgia’s Outstanding Teen.

Aerie: What are your three things you always have with you?
Olivia: Lip balm, my best friends, and hand sanitizer (I’m kind of a germaphobe!)

Aerie: What’s your favorite song to sing?
Olivia: I am classically trained, so I love to sing classical songs when I perform, like “Nessun Dorma” or “O Mio Babbino Caro.” But when I’m just jamming in my car with friends, I love to sing/scream out “All About that Bass” whenever it comes on the radio.

Aerie:  If you could pick any song to be your own theme song, what would it be?
Olivia: My theme song would be “Just Fine” by Mary J. Blige. When my brother was diagnosed with Autism and bipolar disorder, my parents brought in a family therapist who introduced us to this song. It is all about loving yourself and loving your life no matter the cards you are dealt. “See I wouldn’t change my life, my life’s just fine.”

Aerie: Do you have a secret talent, skill or quirk? Do tell!
Olivia: I love to do impersonations or accents. My favorite one to do is an Australian accent. I even convinced a classmate that I was a foreign exchange student from Australia!

Thank you, Olivia! Inspired by Olivia’s story too? Follow her on Instagram and Twitter to keep up to date on her adventures!

xoxo,

Aerie

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