Revisit Iconic 1980s Fashions at Kent State Museum

By Alex Parrott

The Kent State University Museum will highlight the lively and extravagant fashions of the 1980s in an upcoming exhibit. “The 1980s: An Age of Excess” opens Feb. 3 in the museum’s Broadbent Gallery and is curated by Museum Director Jean Druesedow.This Bob Mackie evening gown from the late 1980s, a gift to the Kent State University Museum from Leamond Dean, is one of more than 50 pieces featured in the exhibit “The 1980s: An Age of Excess” in the museum’s Broadbent Gallery.

“The 1980s” features European and American designer gowns and streetwear created by Yves Saint Laurent, Ungaro, Chanel, Christian LaCroix, Bill Blass, Oscar de la Renta, Patrick Kelly and Donna Karan, among others. The exhibit totals more than 50 pieces, all part of the extensive Kent State University Museum collection.

The exhibited items have a close association with the decade’s defining news and iconic personalities. One of Nancy Reagan’s dresses appears, as do fashion illustrations by Antonio Lopez, who died of AIDS in 1987.

“When Princess Diana and Prince Charles were married (in 1981), the sleeves on her wedding dress became a fad in-and-of themselves,” Druesedow says.

Diana’s puffed sleeves are recognizable in several pieces in the collection, including a Givenchy evening dress, Trigère evening pajama and two-piece day dress from Albert Nipon.

The aesthetics of the decade also assert themselves independently of political players and major events. Opulent evening dresses by Bob Mackie, Oscar de la Renta and others reveal a characteristic glitter and glamour. The exhibit also tracks the influence of designer Issey Miyake’s technology-driven innovation.

Druesedow says visitors – whether they lived through the ’80s or not – may be surprised by the wide variety of styles and sensibilities and their influence on current fashions.

“Some garments have retained an aesthetic that transcends the decade while others definitely speak to their moment of creation,” she says.

“The 1980s: An Age of Excess” is open through Sept. 3, 2017. The Kent State University Museum is located at 515 Hilltop Drive at the corner of East Main and South Lincoln streets in Kent. The museum is open to the public on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4:45 p.m.; Thursday from 10 a.m. to 8:45 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 4:45 p.m. Admission is $5 for adults, $4 for seniors and $3 for children under 18. The museum is free with a Kent State ID and free to the public on Sunday. Parking is free. For more information, call 330-672-3450 or visit