Philadelphia in Style: A Century of Fashion at the Michener

Ignite your passion for fashion at the new exhibit

Ignite your passion for fashion at the new exhibit "Philadelphia in Style: A Century of Fashion" at the James A. Michener Art Museum. (Dara N King Photography/Michener Art Museum)

If you’ve got a passion for the history of fashion, check out a new exhibit at the James A. Michener Art Museum. 

Philadelphia in Style: A Century of Fashion from the Robert and Penny Fox Historic Costume Collection marks the chronology of Philadelphia fashion, including its shifts in trends and in the shopping habits of its female patrons, along with its influence on American culture.

Partnering with Drexel University, who has loaned pieces from its vast FHCC collection, the Michener has gathered clothing and accessories created, worn, and sold in Philadelphia from 1896 to 1994.

Dresses, wedding gowns, shoes, hats, and other items “tell the story of women who believed in the value of cultivating personal style and taste and passing it on to future generations,” said Kirsten M. Jensen, Ph.D., the Michener Art Museum’s Gerry & Marguerite Lenfest Chief Curator, who along with Clare Sauro, curator of the Robert and Penny Fox Historic Costume Collection, Drexel University, and Louise Feder, assistant curator at the Michener Art Museum, curated the exhibit that portrays a Philadelphia style.

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Formed in the late 1890s by A.J. Drexel, the founder of Drexel University, to serve as an educational resource for students, the Robert and Penny Fox Historic Costume Collection now includes an amazing 14,000 items, becoming both one of the finest teaching collections in the United States and internationally recognized, with holdings ranging from Renaissance textiles to French couture, and most items donated by Philadelphia women.

Philadelphia served as an authority and “incubator” for leading fashion design talent – from the late 19th century when the city was a center of textile manufacturing and home to several successful women’s magazines such as the “Ladies Home Journal” – to the large department stores who marketed through fashion shows, concerts, restaurants, and parades – to the esteemed design programs that exist today at Moore College of Art, Drexel University and Philadelphia University.

Designers highlighted in the exhibit include 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 exhibit are lectures, a film series, and behind-the-scenes tours of regional fashion collections, along with the opportunity to see the Michener’s permanent collection of American Art, through June 26 at 138 South Pine Street, Doylestown, Pennsylvania.

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