The Robert and Penny Fox Historic Costume Collection (FHCC) of the Westphal College of Media Arts and Design has received a gift from the James G. Galanos Foundation. This gift, comprising nearly 700 couture-level ensembles dating from the 1960s to his retirement in 1998 will form The James G. Galanos Archive at Drexel University. This donation will be augmented in the coming year by additional support materials relating to the career of James Galanos from the James G. Galanos Foundation.
Called the ‘’master of chiffon’’ by the New York Times– Galanos was known for using the finest materials, his impeccable garment construction and most famously for designing Inaugural gowns for former First Lady Nancy Reagan. An undisputed master of 20th century fashion, Galanos’ career spanned five decades and earned him countless industry accolades including lifetime achievement awards from the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA), Coty Inc. as well as a coveted spot on the Fashion Walk of Fame on New York’s Seventh Avenue.
James Galanos, Spring/Summer 1955
The James G. Galanos Archive at the FHCC will serve as a centralized repository for the incomparable work of Galanos and will provide students, scholars and the greater public unparalleled access to the Galanos legacy through their holdings of garments, sketches, photographs, and other archival materials. Additionally, through exhibition, publication and digital media, the Archive will promote the legacy of James G. Galanos to a wide audience.
“Born in Philadelphia and raised in South Jersey, James Galanos became a legend in the world of American fashion design. Drexel is deeply grateful to the James G. Galanos Foundation to be chosen as the repository of this extraordinary collection of his work,” Drexel President John A. Fry said. “This transformative gift will position Drexel’s Robert and Penny Fox Historic Costume Collection as the preeminent university-based fashion collection in the nation.”
Galanos knew at a young age that he wanted to be a designer. In 1947, Galanos secured a position as apprentice designer at the House of Robert Piguet in Paris, France. This exposure to fine fabrics and couture construction would have a lasting influence on his career and design direction. In 1951 Galanos Originals was launched, with his very first line of dresses snapped up by the Beverly Hills branch of Saks Fifth Avenue. Other prestigious retailers and accolades soon followed.
James Galanos Evening Gown, gift of Mrs. N.S. Burpulis - 1959
"The Robert and Penny Fox Historic Costume Collection was a natural choice for our donation. Mr. Galanos is thrilled to gift his ensembles to such a revered and celebrated university-based fashion collection," said the James Galanos Foundation. "The Westphal College's commitment to the next generation of fashion design and merchandising professionals is inspiring – Drexel's Fashion Design program is recognized as one of the top 10 fashion programs in the United States and we look forward to being a part of their continued dedication to the study of art and design."
In his heyday, Galanos dressed a veritable who’s who of fashion-from Hollywood royalty (Rosalind Russell, Marilyn Monroe) to the social elite (Betsy Bloomingdale, Leonore Annenberg, Iris Cantor.) Accordingly, his designs were appreciated for their skillful combination of good taste and glamour. Despite their high price tag, his garments were celebrated for their modern approach. Unlike the French Couture which he was so often compared, Galanos worked firmly in the realm of ready-to-wear.
“If there was such a thing in the United States as there is in Japan, James Galanos would be a national living treasure,” said Ralph Rucci, American fashion designer and artist. “So this gift is an astonishment for us and for Drexel University, to have hundreds of treasures coming from the mind of this man – that all we can do is await the display as our first true walk on the planet of James G. Galanos.”
James Galanos, Spring/Summer 1955
Heralded as a “world-class collection of fashion and textiles” by the Wall Street Journal, the FHCC is one of the finest and oldest university research collections in the nation. The collection spans several hundred years, with holdings ranging from Renaissance textiles to French couture.
Housed in the URBN Center (3501 Market St.), the collection was renamed in March 2014 in recognition of a $1 million commitment from Robert (Hon. ’13) and Penny Fox (Hon.’13). In 2016, the Foxes committed another $2 million, 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. The gift also will support personnel, including an archives specialist and collections manager.