Smithsonian - National Museum of American History, Behring Center

Costume Collection - Women's Dresses

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Dress, 1-Piece - click to enlarge

Dress, 1-Piece - click to enlarge

Dress, 1-Piece - click to enlarge

Click photos to enlarge.

Dress, 1-Piece

Catalogue number: CS*291445.001

Date: 1955

Maker: Grenelle

Designer: Luis Estevez


Evening; black taffeta strapless gown embroidered all over with copper-colored roses; princess-seamed bodice; underlined in taffeta and boning along seams; back of bodice dropping in the shape of a U below the waist; left side zipper with hook-and-eye fastener; black grosgrain waistline stay to control dress from shifting; straight skirt with darts on either side of center front; lined in black taffeta; back with fully gathered pouf skirt attaches to back bodice and side seam of front; four layers of black net with ruffles sewn under pouf skirt to enhance fullness; back of straight skirt in black taffeta with a center back seam and 12-inch slit opening.


The donor purchased the dress at Bergdorf Goodman in New York City in August, 1955. It was worn to the Ring Hop at the United States Military Academy, West Point, New York. She was impressed with the dress after seeing the Bergdorf Goodman ad from a Sunday supplement of a New York newspaper. This was the first time Bergdorf Goodman was presenting the Miss Bergdorf label. The skirt and train were shortened to suit the donor's height. Luis Estevez became a favorite designer for the donor and she purchased one of his day dresses to wear on her honeymoon trip in June 1956.

Luis Estevez was born in 1930 in Havana, Cuba. He was educated in the United States and studied architecture in Cuba. A summer job at Lord & Taylor inspired him to a career in fashion. He went to Paris to learn couture and apprenticed at the House of Patou. In 1955, he returned to the United States and began designing under his own name for the manufacturer Grenelle. He set his goal on making couture-like clothes at a moderate price. His collection was an immediate success. At the age of 24, Estevez became the youngest designer to win the 1956 Coty Award (the American Fashion Critics Award). In 1968, Estevez moved to California, where he designed for various firms, television, and movies. He also produced custom-made clothing for Hollywood celebrities. During the 1970s he designed clothes for First Lady Betty Ford.

Credit: Gift of Mrs. Robert P. Sullivan