8 Reasons to Go See the Patrick Kelly Fashion Exhibit at PMA

Shoulder pads! Butt bows! Skirts made out of bananas!

Photo via Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Photo via Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Yesterday the Philadelphia Museum of Art debuted their much-anticipated Patrick Kelly exhibition. While many see only the glorious excess of Gianni Versace when they think of 1980s fashion, Kelly was a larger-than-life force, and his clothes are nothing short of spectacular (think: banana skirts and riotous splashes of sequins).

For those unfamiliar with the late, great designer, here are eight reasons to check out the exhibit.

1. It’s the first time looks have been compiled from Kelly’s entire career, beginning with fast fashion in the 1980s to presentations of his fall/winter 1989–90 ready-to-wear collections.

2. Portions of Kelly’s personal collection of black memorabilia as well as videos of his vivacious fashion shows (they remind us a bit of Betsey Johnson) will be on display during the exhibit. Let’s just say he had a penchant for donning slouchy overalls during his runway shows.

3. The exhibit is split into six sections with names like, “Mississippi in Paris” and “Lisa Loves the Louvre” —both nods to Kelly’s infatuation with Paris.

4. Celebrities including Cicely Tyson, Bette Davis, Grace Jones and Isabella Rosellini were among his clients. Could you rack up a better clientele? We think not.

5. He was the first African American designer to be voted into the “French ready-to-wear governing body,” the Chambre Syndicale du Prêt-à-Porter des Couturiers et des Créateurs de Mode. A mouthful, yes, but totally prestigious nonetheless.

6. The dresses. OH, THE DRESSES (see above, and here).

7. ..and the elbow-pads. Hey, it was the ’80s.

8. The exhibition will be complemented by additional public programs during the fall. They will include a fashion film series and a discussion about Patrick Kelly, his fashion designs and career with supermodel Pat Cleveland, writer Michael Gross, and fashion journalist Carol Mongo.

See the exhibit at the Philadelphia Museum of Art Tuesday through Sunday, 10am to 5pm. It will run through November 30th.