The Jeannene Booher Fashion Lecture Series continues to bring world-renowned designers to the Stephens College campus. This March the Stephens community had the pleasure to hear from Victor Costa, “king of the copycats,” whose significant impact on the fashion industry spans seven decades. Complementing the lecture, the Stephens College Costume Museum and Research Library launched a new gallery exhibit showcasing Costa’s work during his many years as a major fashion influencer and designer.

“Making pretty clothes for women is very fulfilling for me; I never did it to make money,” said Costa, who, at age 12, saved up for his first sewing machine and carried it home on the bus. He would sketch the dresses he saw in the movies and eventually started a garage business making bridesmaid dresses while still in high school. 

“This is what I’ve always loved,” he said. “All of my success comes from following that love.”

Costa was known for his photographic memory and ability to quickly sketch what was showing on Paris runways so that those designs could later be turned into sellable designs in the American market. This ability earned him the name “king of the copycats” and the opportunity to work with some of the era’s most successful designers, including Oleg Cassini, Ceil Chapman and later Dior, and for many celebrities such as Greer Garson, Ivanka Trump and Brooke Shields. From 1975-1985, his own named label continued to translate the designs of the runway, television and the Academy Awards into sellable, highly successful designs. Today many of his garments continue to be worn as vintage; Kristin Davis is seen in a red and white Costa dress in “Sex and the City 2.” 

Touring his gallery show, which Costa considered “fantastic,” he shared insights into the importance of fabric — from the ski jacket fabric that inspired him to create elegant formal dresses that would keep their shape yet be soft to the touch to the importance of cotton as a social fabric in the American south.

“That’s something I could understand in a way European designers never could,” he said.  

The show encompasses Costa’s work from the ’70s through the ’90s, including a bridal gown with train, “glitzy” ’80s dresses, every-day dresses and impressive examples of both ready-to-wear and couture. Garments are part of the Costume Museum and Research Library archives and Costa’s personal archives, and on loan from the Texas Fashion Collection at the University of North Texas in Denton.

Costa met with several classes in the School of Design prior to the lecture. The fashion lecture series includes an emphasis on selecting designers and industry professionals who are interested in meeting with students one-on-one and in small class settings to optimize the learning experience. 

The gallery show continues through May 6 and is open Wednesdays, 12-1 p.m.; Thursdays, 5:30-8:30 p.m.; and weekends, 12-3 p.m. It is closed during Stephens College breaks and holidays. Learn more about the gallery show.

Tags : School of Design, Fashion

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