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Michener Art Museum to Spotlight a Century of Philadelphia Fashion

DOYLESTOWN, PA – In a special exhibition that opens on March 13, 2016, the James A. Michener Art Museum will showcase a stunning collection of clothing and accessories created, worn, and sold in Philadelphia from 1896 to 1994. Philadelphia in Style: A Century of Fashion from the Robert & Penny Fox Historic Costume Collection, Drexel University illuminates the rich sartorial legacy of a city that has often been overshadowed by New York, but in reality has played a significant role in American fashion: Philadelphia has long been an influential design center, an incubator for leading fashion design talent, and a home to stylish women.

Philadelphia in StyleThe exhibition is presented in partnership with the Westphal College of Media Arts & Design at Drexel University, whose Robert and Penny Fox Historic Costume Collection (FHCC) will loan the items from its holdings of more than 14,000 garments, accessories and textiles from the last three centuries. One of the finest and oldest research collections in the nation, the FHCC was called a “world-class collection of fashion and textiles” by the Wall Street Journal.

On view through June 26, 2016, the Philadelphia in Style exhibition will include dresses, wedding gowns, shoes, hats, and other items created, purchased, and worn in Philadelphia between 1896 and the mid-1990s. The exhibition chronicles the shift in the history of fashion, from the practice of employing dressmakers and tailors – with whom many women developed strong personal relationships – to the rise of ready-to-wear clothing from local department stores and other fashion retailers, leading to a new urban pastime: shopping.

“We expect Philadelphia in Style to draw the same impressive crowds as our Grace Kelly exhibition did in 2013,” said Lisa Tremper Hanover, director and CEO of the Michener Art Museum. “This is an extraordinary opportunity for us to show the public a dazzling piece of Philadelphia history.”

“For centuries, fashion has been a leading cultural force around the globe, but every city has its own story,” said Kirsten M. Jensen, Ph.D., the Michener Art Museum’s Gerry & Marguerite Lenfest Chief Curator. “We wanted to tell the Philadelphia story by resurrecting in our galleries the particular glamour, elegance, and shopping customs of Philadelphia ladies through the past century.” Dr. Jensen is co-curating the exhibition with Clare Sauro, curator of Robert and Penny Fox Historic Costume Collection, Drexel University, and Louise Feder, assistant curator at the Michener Art Museum.

The exhibition builds on the success of Immortal Beauty, the first large-scale, retrospective exhibition of highlights from the Fox Historic Costume Collection, which was on display in Drexel’s Leonard Pearlstein Gallery from Oct. to Dec. 2015, but will feature entirely different items from the collection’s unseen riches.

“The FHCC is a collection of enormous historic and aesthetic significance, but had previously only been seen by a select few,” said Clare Sauro, curator of the Fox Historic Costume Collection. “Immortal Beauty allowed us to introduce ourselves to the world, but this exhibition will turn the spotlight on Philadelphia fashion, which – having been shaped by the great tastemakers of Philadelphia – is the foundation of our collection.”

“Philadelphia in Style will not only afford audiences the chance to view Philadelphia fashion through an artistic lens,” said Dr. Jensen, “it will also evoke personal memories for many visitors as they recall strolling through the grand department stores downtown and remember their own favorite wardrobe items from past decades.”

The Philadelphia in Style exhibition will highlight fashion designers and retailers that influenced fashion choices throughout and beyond the mid-Atlantic region, including designers Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel, Christian Dior, Callot Soeurs, Halston, and Elsa Schiaparelli, as well as retailers Nan Duskin, John Wanamaker’s, and Strawbridge & Clothier.

Complementing the Philadelphia in Style exhibition will be lectures, a film series, and behind-the-scenes tours of regional fashion collections. For listings and details, visit Group tours are also welcome.

A member preview day will be held from 12 pm to 5 pm on March 12, the day before the exhibition opens to the general public. To become a Michener Museum member and receive an invitation, visit or call 215.340.9800 x110.