Published: September 18, 2015
PHILADELPHIA, PENN. — From a fragment of Sixteenth Century Italian velvet to an evening dress by New York designer Alexander Wang from 2012, the first large-scale, retrospective exhibition of highlights from the Robert and Penny Fox Historic Costume Collection (FHCC) in Drexel University’s Antoinette Westphal College of Media Arts & Design will trace the arc of fashion history over the course of more than three centuries.
The exhibition will be on display from October 2–December 12 in the Westphal College’s Leonard Pearlstein Gallery at 3401 Filbert Street. An opening reception will take place Friday, October 2, from 6 to 9 pm.
“Immortal Beauty: Highlights from the Robert and Penny Fox Historic Costume Collection” will feature select artifacts from the museum-quality collection of more than 14,000 notable garments, accessories and textiles.
The exhibition of more than 75 items will largely focus on international high style of the Twentieth Century. Examples include garments by Charles James, Gabrielle Chanel, Halston, Oscar de la Renta, Christian Dior, Mary Quant and Elsa Schiaparelli. Other notable pieces include couture by Philadelphia natives James Galanos and Ralph Rucci, and garments worn by women of style such as American socialite Babe Paley and Princess Grace of Monaco.
“Immortal Beauty” also will showcase the collection’s historic ties to the University. Formed in the late 1890s by A.J. Drexel, the founder of Drexel University, the collection has always served as an educational resource for Drexel students, and some of the finest items came from the estate of Drexel’s granddaughter, Minnie Drexel Fell Cassatt. Four of her couture garments by makers such as Callot Soeurs and Jacques Doucet will be on display.
Even the title of the exhibit was inspired by Drexel: the phrase “immortal beauty” comes from a speech given by Drexel’s first president, James A. MacAlister (1891–1913), during the dedication of the then Drexel Institute of Art, Science and Industry, referencing the artwork purchased for what was then referred to as the Museum of the Drexel Institute.
Clare Sauro, curator of the Fox Historic Costume Collection, who organized the exhibition, said, “The items were selected both for their historical significance and aesthetic beauty. They reflect the breadth of the collection and demonstrate its strengths, while giving a remarkable overview of more than 250 years of fashion change.”
The mission of the collection is to educate and inspire through the documentation, exhibition and preservation of historic costume. Previously open by appointment only, the collection has recently been made available to the public through educational events. A special gallery tour of the exhibition is scheduled for October 15 in conjunction with DesignPhiladelphia.
“The FHCC is a collection of enormous historic and aesthetic significance, but has only been seen by a select few,” said Sauro. “Thanks to the generosity of the Richard C. von Hess Foundation, we will be able to share this important collection with a much larger audience.”
For additional information, www.drexel.edu/westphal/resources/FHCC/ or 215-571-3504.
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