Smithsonian - National Museum of American History, Behring Center

Costume Collection - Women's Dresses

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Dress, 2-Piece - click to enlarge

Dress, 2-Piece - click to enlarge

Dress, 2-Piece - click to enlarge

Dress, 2-Piece - click to enlarge

Click photos to enlarge.

Dress, 2-Piece

Catalogue number: CS*240205.001

Date: 1904-11

Maker: Paz Lopez


White lightweight silk and hairpin lace; BODICE-center front opening, closed with hooks and eyes in yoke (now missing); concealed opening below yoke with six white buttons and worked buttonholes; intricate yoke which extends upwards to form collar; narrowly tucked yoke with lace inserts; wide ruffle of alternating sections of silk and lace, trimmed with band of lace at bottom, sewn to bottom of yoke; round lace medallions inset at intervals where yoke and ruffle seamed; fullness on front bodice controlled by three bands of eight narrow tucks each on either side of center front; additional tucking on concealed opening flap; bodice longer in front than back so forms pouch at center front; waist stayed on inside with cotton tape; narrow peplum below waist; back bodice fullness controlled by narrow tucks radiating upwards from waist; long set-in sleeves; upper sleeve fullness controlled by bands of narrow tucks; lace insets at lower sleeve; wide cuff of lace and tucked silk with inset of round lace medallion; SKIRT-gored; vertical lace insets where seams in gores would normally be; center front panel extends to hem and is inset with lace medallions; rest of skirt has deep flounce with lace inset where flounce and skirt seam would normally be; additional vertical lace insets on flounce; center back opening with deep pleat on either side to create some back fullness; foldover hem.


The story of this dress and the woman who wore it are examples of the historical detective work that museum staff often perform. This dress was worn by one of the donors, Mrs. Martinez, for her November 1904 wedding in Albuquerque, New Mexico. In correspondence with the museum, she stated that her friends were shocked that she spent $50 for the dress. She also said that the wedding dress was made by Paz Lopez and purchased at a shop called The Golden Rule in Albuquerque. By the time we attempted to learn more, the donors were deceased and we could not locate their children. Trying to find more information proved, at first, to be difficult. We did not know Mrs. Martinez's first name nor did we know her maiden name. Luckily, the church in which they were married, Sacred Heart, was able to provide both their names as well as the names of the parents. Mrs. Martinez was born Teofila Gutierrez. The 1900 Census indicated that she lived between Santa Fe and Albuquerque with her sister, her brother-in-law, and her father. Her father was a stone mason and her brother-in-law a day laborer. Once she and Jose married, they resided in the Barelas section of Albuquerque; her father, her sister, brother-in-law and other relations resided with them. It was clearly a bilingual household, for while Jose and Teofila claimed English as their native language, other members of the family-including her sister-listed Spanish as their primary language. The Albuquerque 1905 City Directory lists Jose as a freight handler on the Santa Fe Railroad. From there on he is variously listed as a porter for a dry goods store, a machine helper, a gardener, a plasterer, a janitor, a county jailer and then a series of jobs for the city until 1943 when the entire family moved to California. In other words, Jose worked primarily as a laborer.

The rest of the story centers around how she obtained the dress from Paz Lopez at the Golden Rule. We assumed Ms. Lopez was the in-house dresssmaker at the store. Wrong. The Golden Rule was a dry goods store in the center of Albuquerque's shopping district. It would have sold clothing as well as other goods. From the city directories we know that Paz Lopez did indeed work at the Golden Rule, but as a clerk, not a dressmaker. She also lived in Barelas. We then had two possibilities. The first was the Paz Lopez purchased the dress for Teofila ready-made. Looking at the construction of the dress, especially with its insertion hairpin lace, we do not believe it was ready-made. The second was the Ms. Lopez purchased the fabric and trimmings at the store. At this point, we believe Paz Lopez purchased the materials at the store, but probably also made the dress, not as a dressmaker for the store, but as a neightborhood dressmaker. The dress is current in style, including the shape of the sleeves, and it is well made. As the donor told us, it was a expensive dress.

Credit: Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Jose Antonio Martinez Sr.