This week, Levi’s is celebrating 100 years since the release of Freedom-Alls, their first-ever product designed exclusively for women.
As soon as I opened the photos of the old-school denim one-piece from 1918, I was immediately brought back to the months I spent holed up in my college’s library, digging through the Vogue Archive, researching editorials from the 1920s-1940s, for my thesis. If I learned anything from my research its that writers and magazine editors in the women’s lifestyle sphere have always been more progressive than we give them credit for!
There are innumerous cool things tucked away in fashion archives that are just waiting for us to find and learn from them today! My thesis sought to prove that Vogue’s editors in the 1920s were actively constructing a narrative around the Little Black Dress that granted women the ability to appear wealthier than they were, encouraging social mobility and class “passing” through fashion!
And as early as 1918, we now learn, that Levi’s Freedom-Alls were designed and marketed with the intent on creating garments that allowed women greater physical access to advancement. Freedom-Alls consisted of a belted tunic-style top with attached denim bottoms. America’s entrance into WWI prompted a distinct shift in women’s lifestyles, forcing them to become increasingly more mobile and active beyond the home (requiring a uniform more comfortable and movement-friendly than the previously in-fashion corseted dresses…eye roll…)
Later on in 1934, Levi’s became the first manufacturer to debut blue jeans (without the attached tunic top of Freedom-Alls) with their Lady Levi’s styles. And, what is really amazing is that, since then, denim has not only become the number one staple in women’s wardrobes, but has also become a so-called uniform and symbol of the women’s movement—from Second Wave Feminism on through the women’s marches and activist organizing of today!
Rosie the Riveter, Gloria Steinem, Angela Davis, Riot Grrrls, Oprah Winfrey, and the majority of the estimated one million women who marched for gender equality in 2017—all wore blue jeans! And we’ve got Levi’s to thank for that for creating products that began to change the game for us gals exactly 100 years ago from this very week!