“Lady Levi’s®” – the history of Levi’s® jeans for women

Did you know that the first pair of Levi’s® jeans created especially for women was sold in 1934?  The line was named “Lady Levi’s®”, style number  “701” to distinguish them from the popular men’s 501® jean. The 701 was was targeted to women working on ranches. While researching the history of  “Lady Levi’s®”, I discovered a presentation published by LS&CO. celebrating the 75th Anniversary of the first Levi’s® women’s jean. The report is so comprehensive there’s little I can add; therefore, I will be sharing excerpts of the press release, print advertisements, and a video by Levi’s® historian, Lynn Downey discussing the history of “Lady Levi’s®”.  Enjoy!

Fourteen years after women won the right to vote nationally, women’s jeans were born in September of 1934 when Levi Strauss & Co. created Lady Levi’s® jeans. The line was developed for Western women who had begun wearing men’s Levi’s® jeans on ranches and farms, and for women to wear to a popular new vacation destination – dude ranches. Soon afterwards, Levi’s® jeans became a popular fashion trend for women on the East Coast and were featured in a 1935 article in Vogue about dude ranching that illustrated two women in Lady Levi’s® jeans.

“Levi Strauss & Co.’s decision to create a line of women’s Levi’s® jeans was very progressive at the time,” said Lynn Downey, Historian for Levi Strauss & Co. “Pants still weren’t an acceptable part of a woman’s wardrobe, let alone a style of pants considered to be men’s workwear. The Lady Levi’s® line offered forward-thinking women a new sense of freedom – and though this new-found liberation started in the West, it eventually became a nationwide phenomenon.”

The evolution of women’s jeans:

Pre-1934: Women in the West began wearing their husbands’ or brothers’ Levi’s® 501® jeans, the original blue jeans first created in 1873. These pants were sturdy enough to handle the rough life of a rancher. These original Levi’s® 501® jeans worn by women foreshadow the current “Boyfriend” jeans popular today.

1934: The first pair of women’s jeans, Lady Levi’s®, are created. Assigned lot number 701 to distinguish them from men’s jeans (Lot 501), the original pairs were aimed at women working on ranches and sold in several Western states.

1930s and 1940s: Sales of women’s jeans begin to take off due to the growing popularity of dude ranches. High-end department stores Best & Co. and H. Kauffman & Sons Saddlery Company carried Levi’s® jeans to meet this new demand. Women’s jeans also switched from button-fly to zipper.

1950s: Lady Levi’s® jeans are sold throughout the United States along side men’s Levi’s® 501® jeans and the classic denim jacket.

1960s: Amid a tumultuous cultural revolution, denim becomes a staple in women’s wardrobes. Jeans become a icon of rebellion that’s adopted by both men and women. The brand introduces a slimmer fitting jean – the precursor to the modern Skinny jean. Stretch women’s jeans became popular among teenage girls.

1970s: Levi’s® women’s jeans range offers a variety fashion fits, including the “full” and “straight” leg jeans, and the “jean cuffs.” Flares and bell-bottoms also become popular styles. Levi’s® jeans for women are introduced for the first time overseas.

1980s: The Levi’s® brand introduces the famous 501® jeans for women in 1981. The brand introduces stonewashing to women’s jeans just two years later in 1983.

1990s: The Levi’s® brand offers a series of premium denim and continues to make a wide range of jeans – including the 501®, 550®, 512® Slim fits.

2002: The Levi’s® brand launched Super Low jeans for women, driving the trend to new heights.

2009: The Levi’s® brand remains the top seller of women’s jeans worldwide and continues to offer the hottest styles for the fall and holiday season 2009, the Boyfriend and Skinny fits.

Fun Facts from Levi’s Historian, Lynn Downey:

• Lady Levi’s® jeans were not the first item of clothing that Levi Strauss & Co. created for women. The company broke the mold by inventing “Freedom-Alls” in 1918, a one-piece garment for women made from cotton or khaki fabric, and a line of hiking pants in 1922.

• Women were not allowed to wear denim on the streets of New York in the 1930’s.

• The zipper fly was first introduced in Lady Levi’s® jeans in 1947 to accommodate the brand’s growing popularity, which included proper women on the East Coast who thought the button fly was inappropriate for ladies.

See Lynn’s interview about Lady Levi’s® from the SoHo Levi’s® store in NYC :


10 Responses to ““Lady Levi’s®” – the history of Levi’s® jeans for women”

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  2. 2 The Deminator February 26, 2013 at 4:28 pm

    Thank you for your kind words. I am no longer maintaining this blog, however, there
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  3. 3 http://www.google.fr April 10, 2013 at 10:32 am

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  4. 4 The Deminator April 10, 2013 at 2:56 pm

    Ah ha… Now I see why this came back into my inbox. This would be annoying. I am not able to
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  5. 5 Renee Bettis March 5, 2014 at 5:25 pm

    I just purchased a vintage pair of Levi’s (Big E) “California Ranch Pants” in GOLD from an online auction. They are ADORABLE! I would like to sell these, and would like to know where to get started. Any ideas???

  6. 6 Josephine Walz July 28, 2015 at 7:16 pm

    any idea where I could purchase the 701 for women (online) ?

  7. 7 The Deminator July 28, 2015 at 10:23 pm

    Hi Josephine

    You can find these on the Levi’s online website: http://www.levi.com Go to the search bar and enter 701.


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