Levi Strauss To Launch Form-Fitting Women's Line

Levi Strauss is set to release a new line of women's jeans this fall, with three different form-fitting cuts. It's the iconic company's first attempt to cater to curvy women in years, and an attempt to capture a chunk of the multibillion-dollar fashion-denim market. NPR's Michele Norris talks to Robin Ghivan, Pulitzer Prize-winning fashion writer for the Washington Post.

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MICHELE NORRIS, host:

Most women would rather eat their toenails than go shopping for jeans. Now, that may be an overstatement but not by much. Shopping for jeans ranks right up there with trying to find a well-fitting string bikini if you're not built like a 12-year-old boy, that is to say if you're a woman who happens to have curves.

The international jeans manufacturer Levi Strauss & Co. has taken notice of the broad range of backsides with a new product line of their iconic five-pocket trousers. It's called Curve ID, and it launches September 2nd. And to find out more about this and the effort to cater to curvy girls, I'm joined by Robin Givhan, the Pulitzer Prize-winning fashion writer for the Washington Post. Welcome to the program.

Ms. ROBIN GIVHAN (Fashion Writer, Washington Post): Thank you.

NORRIS: So what took them so long?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. GIVHAN: You know, that is the great mystery, actually. I don't know what would take them so long because Levi's was really sort of the creator of the jean, which is the quintessential, American fashion item, I mean, one of the few things that we can really say that Americans sort of invented.

But the jeans market has grown exponentially. Jeans have become the go-to garment for many people. And they're acceptable in a vast array of situations. But they remain sort of one of the holy grails of the fashion industry, the perfect-fitting part of jeans. It ranks right up there with finding a comfortable pair of stilettos.

NORRIS: And it's almost like finding the unicorn in your backyard.

Ms. GIVHAN: Exactly.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. GIVHAN: Yeah, I mean, women spend something like - they take about 10 to 12 pairs of jeans into a fitting room before they find one pair that they're happy with or at least content with.

And there have been surveys that show that women have something like six pairs of jeans in their closet, of which they wear two pair on a regular basis. So there's clearly a gap between women's desire to wear jeans and the jean industry's ability to fit them.

NORRIS: Right now, Levi's is talking about offering three different custom fits when this program launches in September: slight curve, demi-curve and bold curve for women who have a little bit more bump in the rump. Now, there's curvy, and then there's really curvy, and when I look at these pictures, these women all look to me to be fairly slim.

Ms. GIVHAN: Well, there's curvy, and then there's curvy as a euphemism for plus-size. And these are - they're not going into the plus-size realm here. The sizing goes up to about a 34-inch waist, I think, which really works, you know, out to being maybe a size 14, you know, give or take.

So one thing that I think is really admirable here is the recognition that just because you are thin doesn't necessarily mean that you don't have hips, that you can still be a size six and have a derriere that is not going to fit into jeans that have been really cut for a boy's figure.

NORRIS: I'm going to say goodbye, but before I do, I'm just going to make one observation. When people talk about curves through the hip or the rear or the waist or anything, it could be described as a problem or perhaps just a fact.

Ms. GIVHAN: I like to think of it as a fact.

NORRIS: I do, too.

Ms. GIVHAN: A very nice fact, actually.

(Soundbite of laughter)

NORRIS: Robin, it's always good to talk to you.

Ms. GIVHAN: You, too.

NORRIS: Robin Givhan is a fashion writer for the Washington Post.

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