Revisit Iconic 1980s Fashions at Kent State Museum

Evening Gown, Bob Mackie, American late 1980s, Gift of Leamond Dean KSUM 1999.22.0001The 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 Friday, February 3 in the museum’s Broadbent Gallery and is co-curated by Museum Director Jean Druesedow and Victoria Haworth, a senior fashion merchandising student at Kent State's Fashion School.

There will also be an opening reception on Friday, February 24 from 2 to 4 p.m. The reception includes a gallery talk by Jean Druesedow with refreshments to follow. Reception tickets are $15; RSVP to 330-672-0300 by February 6.

“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,” says Druesedow. 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 glamor. The exhibit also tracks the influence of designer Issey Miyake’s technology-driven innovation.

According to Druesedow, 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.”

“The 1980s: An Age of Excess” is open through September 3, 2017.

The Kent State University Museum is located at 515 Hilltop Drive, at the corner of E. Main St. and S. Lincoln St. in Kent, Ohio. The museum is open to the public on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. - 4:45 p.m.; Thursday from 10 a.m. - 8:45 p.m.; and Sunday from noon - 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


Media Contact: Alex Parrott, marketing associate,

(Image: Evening Gown, Bob Mackie, American late 1980s, Gift of Leamond Dean, KSUM 1999.22.0001)

POSTED: Tuesday, January 10, 2017 11:40 AM
Updated: Wednesday, February 08, 2023 02:16 PM
Alex Parrott