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James Galanos: Design Integrity

A James Galanos Retrospective  

presented with The Robert and Penny Fox Historic Costume Collection

1956 promotional photograph for Galanos. A woman wears a white, beaded, strapless gown with long white opera gloves

October 19, 2018

October 19-December 21 and January 8-27 2019

Reception Tuesday, October 23 5-7pm. 

The Robert and Penny Fox Historic Costume Collection (FHCC) of Drexel University’s Westphal College of Media Arts and Design will present a retrospective exhibition of work by renowned fashion designer James Galanos. The exhibition, James Galanos: Design Integrity will celebrate the artistry of James Galanos, considered by his peers to be one of the greatest and most creative of American designers of the 20th century. 

The exhibit will place his work in the context of American fashion from the post-war period through the 1990s and celebrate his innovative approach to construction and embellishment. This reevaluation will assert his role as one of the premier designers of the 20th century and will be designed to appeal to younger audiences who may not be familiar with his work. The exhibition will draw heavily from the primary materials of the James G. Galanos Archive at Drexel University, creating an immersive experience and allowing for a greater understanding of this intensely private designer. On view will be approximately 60 ensembles alongside a rich array of sketches, photographs and other related materials. The exhibition is organized by Clare Sauro, FHCC director and chief curator. 

An undisputed genius 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.  Hailed as 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.

In his heyday, Galanos dressed a veritable who’s who of fashion-from Hollywood royalty (Rosalind Russell, Marilyn Monroe, Diahann Carroll) 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 to which his designs were so often compared to, Galanos worked firmly in the realm of ready-to-wear.

Galanos had a uniquely rigorous approach to his work that produced unparalleled creativity and artistic freedom. Critics regularly commented that his designs were the most avant-garde in the United States. While this, naturally, limited his commercial appeal, Galanos was unconcerned with dressing the masses and earned himself a reputation as “the most courageous American designer.” Confident in his own abilities, he distanced himself from the cutthroat nature of Seventh Avenue, choosing to work in Los Angeles where he was free to pursue his passion as he saw fit.

The exhibition is made possible by the support of lead sponsor the Richard C. von Hess Foundation, the Coby Foundation,Ltd. and the Iris & B. Gerald Cantor Foundation.