The 80s were celebrated with a fashion show at the San Diego History Center


6 models

The San Diego History Center and the Mesa College Fashion Program celebrated 12 years of collaboration for Fashion Redux 2023 on April 20 at the Balboa Park History Center. This glam 1980s phenomenon is presented by Margaret’s Couture Clearance.

Mesa College fashion students visited the History Center last fall to see inspiring clothing from this era. The Historic Clothing and Textiles Collection has over 7,000 items – placing it in the top 10 collections in the US.

7 inspired clothes
Arnold Gassey’s dresses inspired the students and are on display in the History Center.

Four costumes by designer Arnold Scaci are out of storage for students to see. Scaasi has created dresses for many first ladies, celebrities and famous personalities. The dresses chosen were a beautiful strapless gala dress, a blue strapless evening dress, a knee length olive dress and a floral print dress.

Development Manager Sheila Thomas introduced Jordyn Smiley, director of fashion at San Diego Mesa College, after an opening speech about the programs at the museum. Smiley led a discussion with the four top student winners this year: Ramses Alfaro Mendoza, Leo Cotton, Eddie Villarreal, and Robby Matawaran.

Later, collections specialist Leilani Alontaga-Kaitheness and Jeremy Prince presented awards to those students. Best Interpretation of Story Style went to Robbie Matawarn, Most Innovative Costume went to Eddie Villarreal, Most Transformative Design went to Ramses Alfaro Mendoza, and Most Innovative Fabric went to Leo Cotton.

1. Jordin Smiley Jeremy Prince
Jordyn Smiley, director of fashion at Mesa College, and Jeremy Prince, collection specialist at the History Center. (Photos by Diana Cavagnaro)

In a conversation with Smiley, the students talked about the inspiration and challenges they faced in the process of designing 1980s-inspired costumes. The devastating AIDS crisis of the 1980s and its impact on the LGBT+ community played a role in each of their designs.

Later in the evening, guests cast their votes for the “People’s Choice Awards.” Cotton’s inspiration came from the construction details of Scaci’s dresses, such as the false button on the back of the red and black skirt and the olive skirt’s next panel. He created a jacket dress with a magnetic opening in the front. On the inside of the jacket skirt was a convertible piece that could be opened to reveal hand-painted flowers.

4 Ed V
Eddie Villarreal was honored for his innovative costume design.

After the Q&A, guests viewed the Fashion Redux 2023 exhibition, which featured the four student outfits along with the four historically inspired outfits. Visitors to this exhibit at the History Center will see 1980s accessories as well as photographs of the 1980s shopping experience at San Diego: Horton Plaza, which opened in 1985.

The History Center is open Wednesday through Sunday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, visit

upcoming events

Vista Hill Foundation Friday, May 5th will feature a luncheon and fashion show at the Town and Country Resort to support moms who practice modesty. For information, call Rachel Penich at (858) 514-5151.

42nd Annual Golden Scissors Fashion Show on May 12th from 5-7pm at San Diego Mesa College in the new outdoor quad. For tickets:

Hats for children Friday May 19th is the luncheon fashion show at Dolce Restaurant in Del Rio Plaza. This event benefits Rady Children’s Hospital. Call Susan Darnall for tickets: (858) 361-2725.

Fashion 4 love and purpose Morgan Run Country Club has nine eco-designers. Organized by the Miracle Foundation, the event benefits schools in developing countries. The event will be on Friday, May 19 from 7:30-11 p.m. Ticket link:

2. Leo
A Leo Cotton model wearing a jacket-dress was awarded the Most Creative and People’s Choice Award.
5 rams
Ramses Alfaro Mendoza (left) won the award for most transformative design.
3 Robbie
Robi Matawar was hailed as the best historical style in a model black velvet dress.


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