Special/Signature Issues » Belle

Style & Substance: Art Meets Fashion

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Punk rock. No-fault divorce. Personal computers. The fall of the Berlin Wall.

The '80s were full of bold lines and sharp contrasts -- motifs reflected by the art of the time. Frances Lewis' support of the arts has made her famous in this town, most visibly through her wing at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, but her interest in modern creative artifacts carries all the way to her closet.

Lewis has donated her collection of one-of-a-kind gowns, suits, dresses and shoes from the 1980s to the Valentine Richmond History Center. Now the public can ogle her Moschino suits printed with Roy Lichtenstein's modern damsels in distress (right) and the crinkly Mary McFadden gown she wore to the opening of her museum wing.

Jackie Mullins, registrar of collections for the Valentine, says Lewis' closet was a vision ahead of its time.

"For Frances Lewis, who I really think fashion-wise reached her height in the '80s, she was very avant-garde in her clothes," says Mullins, who teaches a class in contemporary fashion at Virginia Commonwealth University. "If you were to have transplanted her to New York in the '80s, she would have been well within what was happening at the fashion capital."

The garments represent some of the decade's most influential designers and indelible trends. The museum plans to use them in future exhibits, but for those who just can't wait to see the dresses, personal appointments can be arranged.

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