Shoulder Pads, Mini Skirts and Fanny Packs: 1980s Fashion is Back at Drexel’s “Style Saturday” Event

Emanuel Ungaro Couture, blue printed silk, c. 1986, France. Gift of Elizabeth Graham Weymouth.
Emanuel Ungaro Couture, blue printed silk, c. 1986, France. Gift of Elizabeth Graham Weymouth.

“The 1980s was a decade where ‘more was more,” according to Clare Sauro, curator of the Robert and Penny Fox Historic Costume Collection in Drexel University’s Antoinette Westphal College of Media Arts & Design.

On Saturday, Feb. 7, Sauro will open the collection to the public for Luxe Redux: Fashions of the 1980s, a lecture on the over-the-top 1980s fashion trends and a behind-the-scenes look at items from a decade of luxury and excess.

Sauro will discuss the return to luxury couture following the dressed-down 1970s, as well as the influence of popular culture and the rise of international fashion. Guests will get an up-close look at 1980s fashions from the collection, including pieces by Karl Lagerfeld, Christian Lacroix and Emanual Ungaro.

“There were gorgeous things happening in the ’80s, from beautiful textiles to masterful silhouettes. We need to put aside our embarrassment over some of our personal style choices at that time and look at fashion from that period through fresh eyes,” said Sauro.

“The fashion trends of the 1980s were a great combination of historicism and modernism with good old-fashioned sex appeal.”

Luxe Redux: Fashions of the 1980s is part of the ongoing Style Saturday event series, through which one of the finest teaching collections in the country is made available to the public. Each event includes an educational seminar on a particular aspect of fashion history and a specialized viewing of the collection.

Pierre Cardin, black wool crepe, c. 1983, France. Gift of Katherine Field.

The event will take place on Saturday, Feb. 7 from 10 a.m.1 p.m. in the URBN Center (3501 Market St.). Tickets are $50, and can be purchased here or by calling 215-571-3504. Space is limited. All proceeds will benefit the Robert and Penny Fox Historic Costume Collection.

Housed in Drexel’s Antoinette Westphal College of Media Arts & Design, the Robert and Penny Fox Historic Costume Collection is a museum-quality collection of more than 12,000 garments, textiles and accessories spanning more than 200 years. It was previously open to the public by appointment only. The first event, held in Oct. 2013, explored the history of 1920’s fashion, and the second event in March 2014 focused on floral motifs in fashion.

The Robert and Penny Fox Historic Costume Collection is one of the oldest teaching collections in the United States. The oldest documented objects are a man’s waistcoat dating from the 1750s and a group of 16th century velvets. The internationally recognized collection has lent objects to exhibitions in Paris and Milan.

University founder A.J. Drexel formed the Drexel Collection, out of which the Robert and Penny Fox Historic Costume Collection was later formed, in the late 1890s to serve as an educational resource for the students. Through the remarkable generosity of donors, the collection has become one of the finest research collections in the United States. The mission of the collection is to educate and inspire, while providing a significant resource for an ever-expanding community of historians, scholars, artists and designers.

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 the collection for future generations of researchers and admirers.

The Robert and Penny Fox Historic Costume Collection
To learn more about the Drexel Historic Costume Collection, please visit

Sauro, curator of the collection, joined Drexel in 2008 and has more than 15 years of experience in the field of historic costume and museum environments. She previously served as an associate curator for the historic collection at New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology. During her tenure at Drexel, Sauro has contributed to the exhibitions “Rest Your Feet” (2008) and “A Legacy of Art, Science & Industry: Highlights from the Collections” (2013.) In 2011, she curated the exhibition “Brave New World: Fashion & Freedom, 1911-1919,” in conjunction with the Philadelphia International Festival of the Arts (PIFA.)  

Sauro is a frequent lecturer on the history of fashion and research collections and is regularly interviewed and consulted by journalists and scholars. In addition to her role as curator, she teaches courses in the history of fashion to students in Drexel’s nationally ranked fashion program. Sauro’s current research includes fashion from 1919 to 1939, and the role of the artifact in education.