Fashion-loving Cindy’s favorite question to hear just might be “Are those new jeans?” The thirtyeight year old freelance writer actually considers it a compliment. “It means that people are paying attention,” she relates. “It makes me feel like the time and effort spent to find that great new pair of jeans is worth it.”

Denim ownership is at an alltime high yet more women than ever have indicated that they will be adding even more to their wardrobes in the coming months. That may likely be owed to the fact that denim continues to reinvent itself as a fashion favorite with new cuts, silhouettes, rises, colors and washes that provide Cindy and legions of other denim-craving women with an impetus to keep shopping.

According to the Cotton Incorporated Lifestyle Monitor™, female respondents stated that they own 17.17 denim garments on average in 2005, the highest level recorded in Monitor’s twelve-year history. On average, jeans comprised approximately half of this number. Even with such high ownership, 30.2% female respondents said that they would probably buy several items and an additional 46.2% said that they might buy one or two items even though they didn’t need more. This increased proclivity towards denim may simply come down to a numbers game; female respondents also indicated that they were

Q61 Description of Denim Wardrobe
  04Q4 05Q4 +/-
Don’t Need/Won’t Buy 50% 15% 15%
Don’t Need/Might Buy 1 or 2 Items 21% 30% 15%
Probably Buy Several Items 11% 5% 15%

wearing denim an average of 4.19 days a week, another record number in Monitor’s history. “They’re wearing more of it and they’re wearing it more often,” says Claire Dupuis, a senior trend forecaster with Cotton Incorporated. “There always seems to be something new in the denim market and that’s what keeps them coming back for more. There are great options at virtually every price point today.”

The wide range of options in denim is just one of three reasons why jeans are so incredibly important to women today, enumerates Dr. Robert Passikoff, president of Brand Keys, a consultantcy based in New York. “You also have a lifestyle trend towards wearing casual clothing for all occasions and denim clearly has its place in that. I also think that you have celebrities wearing great denim, making it their own and consumers are paying attention to that.”

Celebrities have definitely helped to stoke the fiery demand for the highest end of the market known as premium denim, which is classified as jeans selling for $70 or more per pair. “It’s a relatively affordable way for regular women to get their own casual version of the Red Carpet Chanel dress,” Passikoff hypothesizes. “And when you consider how often a woman might actually wear that so-called pricey pair of jeans, it actually becomes a steal.”

With certain pairs of jeans topping the $300 mark, denim has clearly come a long way from its humble origins as a durable work fabric favored by miners looking to strike it rich during the Gold Rush of the 1850’s. While durability is still a hallmark quality of denim, jeans have obviously transcended to a stylish fashion necessity for women of all ages and lifestyles. According to the Monitor, one in four women states that her wardrobe is full of denim and that she loves wearing it. Another one in two states that she enjoys wearing denim. Only a mere 2.9% said that denim is not for them.

“Denim is a wardrobe staple and much like shoes, you can never have enough pairs of jeans. Today denim has become acceptable attire for almost every occasion,” tells Sean Krebs, Style Expert for Gap, the national retailer.

So what will women be buying to add to their ever growing wardrobes of denim? A clean, unembellished pair, say those in the know. “Looks are going cleaner and darker with a slightly higher rise,” shares Paige Adams, owner and founder of Paige Denim. “There will definitely be a change in silhouette and options in the leg shape from the peg to the skinny leg to the trouser cut to the super wide leg.” “No bells and whistles, just a classic and clean silhouette,” says denim designer Julius Singleton, founder of Julius Jeans, which is scheduled to launch this year.

Many women are clearly planning on indulging their darker sides when it comes to jean purchases. According to the Monitor, 28% of female respondents said that dark blue was their intended color of choice for their next denim purchase. 39% indicated that a pair of medium blue was in their future.

Black is also back, advises Adams. “You will also see plenty of blacks and even greys, it’s all very clean looking.” A spokesperson for Seven for All Mankind, another premium denim brand, adds, “Washes are turning to shades of greys, blacks and saturated indigos. The look is going more rock and roll.” Color may also be on the horizon. “We’re going to see some piece dyed colors, in shades of white and other soft colors,” Dupuis from Cotton Incorporated adds.

Expect a softer feel, too. “Left Weave is Gap’s softest denim ever because it is woven from the left instead of the right like most jeans. The end result is jeans that are super comfortable to wear,” details Krebs.

With a slightly higher rise, a darker cast, a premium fit and a softer hand marking the latest generation in jeans, it seems that the only thing that won’t be soft are the sales for denim-loving women everywhere.

This story is one in a series of articles based on findings from Cotton Incorporated’s Lifestyle Monitor™ tracking research. Appearing Thursdays in these pages, each story will focus on a specific topic as it relates to the American consumer and her attitudes and behavior regarding clothing, appearance, fashion, fiber selection and many other timely, relevant subjects.

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