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Versatile Denim – A Popular Choice Among Women

By Valerie Flattmann

Despite so many choices in fashion, women are turning to denim for casual wear as well as work wear. The versatility of the fabric has soared as women are discovering denim can be worn at all times of the day and for all occasions.

“Once a woman finds a pair (of jeans) that fits, she becomes loyal to the brand,” Nancy Tipton-Lee of Riders Apparel said. Tipton-Lee also said denim jeans are a core component of the American wardrobe, transcending sex and age.

Denim remains highly popular among females, ages 16-24, leading other categories with 70.2 percent of women buying and wearing denim merchandise. Retail sales of women’s denim jeans increased 5.3 percent from a year ago to 46.7 million articles of denim in the first quarter of 2001, the third largest sales volume in one quarter since 1995.

“Whenever we see a downturn in the economy, denim does well,” said Liz Horner, a marketing executive at Lee Company in Merriam, Kan. “It always gets a boost from the patriotism coming out of the Olympics.”

Now, denim is individualized. Jeans are decorated with appliques, patches, contrast stitching, studs, and beading. Jeans are available in almost every wash and color consumers could want. Last November, Lynn W. Warren wrote an opinion about the leading apparel item in the industry news page for thePhantom Reporter. She stated denim was “an easy American classic” and is constantly current. She also noted that denim is a staple in everyone’s wardrobe from women to men to children.

“When fashion changes significantly, denim rises,” David Wolfe, creative director for Doneger Company, said. “As women shift this spring to more feminine styles, they will find denim jeans as a base in the transition.”

Wolfe also said part of the appeal is that it is made of natural cotton fiber at a time when consumers are weary of futuristic, high-tech materials. Another appeal is that it has “many personalities” and styles to appeal to a range of buyers. With the innovations of denim coats and other pieces of clothing, denim can be found everywhere from apparel to accessories, he added.

“I think why denim never goes out of style is it continues to be reinvented,” Gregg Andrews of Nordstrom, said. “It was considered work wear in the early part of last century. Now, it’s something we choose to wear everyday.”

Amid widespread industry reports and fears that denim’s surge may have lost some steam, sales of products made from denim, especially jeans, continue to increase. At the end of the third quarter of 2001, denim jeans accounted for 11.4 percent of total apparel purchases. Denim definitely is flourishing in the retail department, especially when mass merchandiser Wal-Mart sells three pairs of jeans every second of every day.

It has been said that, like most fashion, denim should have gone out of style a long time ago. After 150 years, it still brings in sales and lures the average consumer. Denim also has been said to be the poor man’s uniform, but the rich are finding it more and more appealing as its legacy lives on.