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Tailoring Philadelphia: Tradition and Innovation in Menswear

Start Date 2 October 2010
End Date 16 October 2011
Venue Philadelphia Museum of Art
Location Philadelphia, USA
Curator Kristina Haugland

Drawn from the Museum’s rich collection of menswear, this exhibition focuses on one of Philadelphia’s most important industries in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries: tailoring. Francis Toscani (1915–1973), one of the city’s most successful tailors, is featured, with over fifteen of the designer’s innovative garments on view. 

As a child, Toscani learned the art of tailoring from his father, and by the 1960s he was chief designer for H. Daroff and Sons, one of the nation’s largest manufacturers of men’s apparel, producing more than a million men’s suits each year under labels such as Botany 500 and Worsted-Tex. Toscani’s designs often challenged the conventions of traditional tailoring by incorporating unusual sleeves, pockets, and collars; interesting seaming and closures; and unexpected colors. Among the designer’s inventions is an ivory silk safari jacket (c. 1967) that converts via waist zipper to a formal mess-style coat. Toscani’s keen understanding of the nuances of men’s clothing styles is most apparent in his designs created especially for fashion shows, such as his “Half and Half” Suit (c. 1962–65) that dramatically contrasts the style of the early 1950s, in pale gray, with the cut and details of the early 1960s, in dark brown. 

A selection of works by some of Philadelphia’s many other tailors places Toscani’s designs in a historical context. These pieces—including a frock coat, morning ensemble, and dinner jacket—illustrate the traditional forms of men’s suits in the early to mid-twentieth century. 

Curator:  Kristina Haugland • Associate Curator of Costume and Textiles and Supervising Curator for the Study Room and Academic Relations

Location: Costume and Textiles Study Gallery, second floor, Perelman Building