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Meleana Estes

Historically, Paris and Milan were the most prominent and highly recognized fashion capitals in the world. As well as being home to Chanel, Hermès and Saint Laurent, Paris invented haute couture, the epitome of luxury. Milan, known for impeccable craftsmanship and materials, gave the world Armani, Missoni, Versace and Dolce & Gabbana.

Only in the last 10 years has New York’s Fashion Week reached a point of serious international relevance. Yet, there is no denying that America has given the world the most widely worn and consistent staple in our wardrobes: the blue jean.

Denim, an essential part of American heritage, dates back to 1817, when the material was worn by the U.S. Navy. Half a century later, a tailor by the name of Jacob Davis approached German businessman Levi Strauss— who was selling denim fabric—with a design idea. By 1873, they began to manufacture pants with riveted pockets, each with its own little red flag.

Fast forward to present day, denim is more prevalent than ever. Head to toe, baggy, tight, ripped or tailored, the beauty of denim, in its many forms, is very much in style.

Some of the denim is distinctly ’70s-revival. Dramatic, sweeping bell bottoms, patchwork denim reminiscent of a quilt covering a mustard-yellow couch, and the midi button-down skirt could all be straight from Stevie Nicks’ wardrobe.

Denim is also being dressed up in sophisticated, ladylike silhouettes and deep, rich washes. The indigo straight-leg, tailored denim pants at Valentino, or the denim suit silhouette by Monique Lhuillier both seem boardroom-ready. The sweet, cap-sleeve dress by Carolina Herrera, too, would be perfect for lunch with the ladies.

For a more relaxed vibe, try distressed overalls or a pair of jeans that may or may not be your boyfriend’s. Pair those with a sleek black pair of pumps, and this relaxed look becomes positively polished.

Yes, denim thrives in ever-newer forms, and Milan, Paris and the rest of the world have the good ol’ USA to thank.