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Fashioning Philadelphia

May 14, 2012

The Museum of Elfreth's Alley (126 Elfreths Alley, Philadelphia 19106) is hosting an exhibition celebrating the rich history of the fashion industry in Philadelphia. The Fashioning Philadelphia exhibit features five designs from the senior collection of Westphal Fashion Design alumna Lauren Mukalian who is currently working as a designer in New York City. The exhibition also includes photographs from The Drexel University Archives and Special Collections, and the Westphal College Archives. Drawings and photographs from Drexel’s Historic Costume Collection help chronicle the history of fashion design and manufacturing in Philadelphia. Design & Merchandising students Briana Balsam, Emily Raduzycki, Laura Simons and Audrey Cook helped the museum with the initial exhibit set-up and design. The exhibit will be at Elfreth’s Alley for the entire year and feature different student designers throughout its run. Design & Merchandising students will continue to help with updating the exhibit installations.

Philadelphia has played a major role in the fashion and textile industry since the city’s founding. Starting in the 18th century, dress makers, then known as mantua makers, and milliners lived on Elferth’s Alley, a street that is still one of Philadelphia’s historical treasures. As the fashion industry grew in our region, notable highlights followed including John B. Stetson founding the nation's largest hat maker in the mid-18th century, and John Wanamaker’s first American modern department store in 1876. At the start of the 20th century, Philadelphia produced more textiles than any other city in America.

The Westphal College has been an integral part of Philadelphia’s fashion industries since the University's founding in 1891. Originally known as the Department of Domestic Economy, the college offered classes in sewing, domestic arts, fashion drawing, and millinery, and the college has produced hundreds of graduates who have worked regionally as designers and in retail merchandising.