Clare Sauro, curator of the Fox Historic Costume Collection, stands next to a coral-encrusted Hubert de Givenchy couture gown worn by Grace Kelly and a floral dress designed and donated by Adele Simpson in the 1960s.
Heralded as a “world-class collection of fashion and textiles” by the Wall Street Journal, Drexel University’s Robert and Penny Fox Historic Costume Collection (FHCC) of the Antoinette Westphal College of Media Arts & Design has received a $2 million commitment from Robert (Hon. ’13) and Penny Fox (Hon.’13). The museum-quality collection of more than 14,000 garments, textiles and accessories spanning three centuries is one of the finest and oldest research collections in the nation.
The gift is designated for the establishment of a Center for Historic Costume Exhibition and Research, which will consist of a permanent gallery to display items from the collection, as well as a meeting space for lectures and other public programs. It also will support personnel, including an archives specialist and collections manager.
“Bob and Penny continue to amaze me with their commitment to making this collection the best educational resource of its kind, for Drexel students and for an ever-expanding community of historians, scholars, artists and designers,” said Drexel University President John A. Fry. “Their gift will enable us to preserve and grow the Fox Historic Costume Collection, and increase accessibility and outreach so it can educate and inspire future generations.”
In March 2014, the collection was renamed in recognition of a $1 million commitment from Robert and Penny Fox, which was designated to digitizing the collection’s inventory to create an interactive and searchable database of descriptive text and digital imagery.
The gift comes on the heels of Immortal Beauty, the first large-scale, retrospective exhibition of highlights from the collection, which was on display in the Westphal College’s Leonard Pearlstein Gallery from Oct. – Dec. 2015. The exhibition attracted thousands of visitors and received rave reviews from the Wall Street Journal, Philadelphia Inquirer and Philadelphia STYLE, among others.
A new exhibition of pieces from the collection’s unseen riches will showcase clothing and accessories created, worn and sold in Philadelphia from 1896 to 1994. The exhibition, Philadelphia in Style: A Century of Fashion from the Robert & Penny Fox Historic Costume Collection, Drexel University, will be on display from March 13 – June 26 at the James A. Michener Art Museum in Doylestown, Pa. It is co-curated by Clare Sauro, curator of the Fox Historic Costume Collection and a professor in the Westphal College’s Department of Design.
Housed in the URBN Center (3501 Market St.), the Fox Historic Costume Collection spans several hundred years. Its holdings range from Renaissance textiles to French couture. Many garments were worn by noted women of style, including American socialite and style icon Babe Paley and Princess Grace of Monaco.
As one of the oldest university collections in the United States, it is internationally recognized for the exceptional quality of its holdings and has lent objects to exhibitions in Paris and Milan. The oldest documented objects are a man’s waistcoat dating from the 1750s and a group of 16th century velvets.
University founder A.J. Drexel formed the Drexel Collection, out of which the Fox Historic Costume Collection was later formed, in the 1890s to serve as an educational resource for the students. Previously open by appointment only, the collection has recently been made available to the public through educational events. These “Fashion Friday” and “Style Saturday” viewings include an in-depth presentation on a particular aspect of fashion history, such as the legacy of 1920s fashion, and a private viewing of the collection.
In January 2013, the collection was relocated into new facilities in the Westphal College’s new URBN Center, which has greatly improved the accessibility and visibility of the collection while preserving it for future generations.
Robert Fox is the chairman and CEO of R.A.F. Industries Inc., a private investment company that acquires and manages a diversified group of middle market companies located across the United States. Penny Fox serves on the boards of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Moore College of Art and Design and the Pennsylvania Ballet. Mr. and Mrs. Fox are notable philanthropists who have previously made major investments in organizations such as the University of Pennsylvania, Wistar Institute and Moore College of Art. In 2013, Mr. and Mrs. Fox received honorary degrees from Drexel University in recognition of their civic and business leadership.