Denim: Dress and the Evolution of American Identities


Denim Dress and Evolution of American Identities

Since denim’s inception in the late 17th century, the fabric has continued to be an integral part of American dress and identity. Denim has evolved from blue-collar workwear to being donned by cowboys, hippies, rockers, and now almost everyone has a favorite pair of jeans. Today, denim can even be seen in high fashion. Denim has been used for political activism, exemplified by the counterculture movement within the 1960s and 1970s. Additionally, young protestors wore denim during the U.S. Civil Rights Movement to appear relatable to youth. During the 1980s and 1990s, denim helped Black hip-hop artists feel included in American identity. Many artists did this by donning high end brands such as Fila, Ralph Lauren, Tommy Hilfiger, and more whose signature colors allude to the American flag. Denim’s sociocultural meanings and design have continued to evolve in the 21st century. Denim remains popular and symbolic of America, representing core historical moments. In our exhibition, we feature ensembles from the latter part of the 20th century that highlight the ways high-end fashion designers such as Gucci and Halston incorporated denim into their lines. We paired objects together that reflect the ways denim is worn by so many different people in various ways.

Curated by Brindy Arredondo, undergraduate student in Apparel, Merchandising and Design and Angeline Gaylah, undergraduate student in Apparel, Merchandising and Design. Brindy and Angie are curatorial and collections manager student assistants in the ISU Textiles and Clothing Museum.

Need More Information?

Textiles and Clothing Museum

Morrill Hall
603 Morrill Road
Ames Iowa 50011-2100

Mailing address
31 MacKay Hall
2302 Osborn Drive
Ames Iowa 50011-107

Kelly L. Reddy-Best

Please check the Visiting/Engaging with the Museum page for hours and the Galleries page for dates when the exhibitions are open for viewing.