About this Project

The Spark 

After creating a virtual exhibition on Chintz fabric, I became fascinated with textiles and the complex stories they tell. Within the fashion industry, denim has been something that has seemed to transcend time, and change with the world. Additionally, growing up in North Carolina I knew about the complicated history of textile mills, but wanted to research this further. It is very easy to separate the garment from its roots, but to me this was something I really wanted to uncover and explore in my research. As I began my preliminary research, I was struck by the different avenues of exploration, and my writing began to take off. Denim has persisted throughout time, from the original five pocket Levi’s used for miners and laborers, to most Americans owning on average 6 pairs. Southern textile mills churned out denim fabric, with the horrid essence of a Jim Crow ridden past influencing hiring procedures and practices. Now, denim has become an element of style that is a staple for most people, yet there is little information spread about the history and overall costs denim has on both the environment and society as a whole. Though vintage Levi’s are chased down through sales and auctions, little people know that the hands that made them faced inequalities and racist regimes perpetuated by Southern textile mill owners. I don’t intend to right the wrongs with my website, but to shed light on the complex reality that is denim. In no means do I feel as though this research is completed or done, as my research has continued to evolve as I find and consider new materials. I hope this site can be a jumping off point for me to add to this scholarship, and to continue writing into my post graduate studies.

This project serves as an Honors Project for Skidmore College’s Art History Major. Annabelle hopes to continue to develop this website post graduation. 

About the Author 

Born and raised in Charlotte, North Carolina, Annabelle Oates has been fascinated with fashion, objects, and textiles from a young age. After countless visits to her grandmother’s antique shop, she began to take in the world around her through the objects and materials that define who we are. While attending Skidmore College, she fell into a treasure trove of creatives, and was inspired to study art history as it allowed her to question objects on a deeper level. After creating a virtual exhibition on Chintz, she became entranced with the world of textiles, and was inspired to look into denim for her senior project. With the help of her professors and peers, she has worked to illustrate these themes and research through this site. She hopes to continue this work and expand on these ideas post graduation. In many ways she feels as though she has just begun to scratch the surface. This project is dedicated to Rooney Robison, Nonnie, the most wonderful grandmother and role model, who continues to support and inspire Annabelle everyday. 

Image below shows Annabelle sitting inside the Cooper Hewitt museum where she will be spending many hours completing her Master’s in the History of Design and Curatorial Studies at Parson’s School of Design next fall! 

A special thanks to Skidmore College’s department of Art History for constant support and guidance throughout this project.