Smithsonian - National Museum of American History, Behring Center

Costume Collection - Women's Dresses

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Dress, 2-Piece - click to enlarge

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Dress, 2-Piece

Catalogue number: 1993.0208.001

Date: 1947-1950

Maker: Handtex Fabrics


Black, coarsely woven Guatemalan cotton with decorative bands; BODICE-sleeveless; sweetheart neckline trimmed with decorative chartreuse, ecru, and teal tape; fitted bodice extends below waist; left side black metal zipper works from the bottom up; SKIRT-unpressed pleats; left side opening with black metal zipper; decoratively woven waistband fastened with black pearl button and sewn buttonhole; zipper in skirt; wide decorative band around middle of skirt in off-white, yellow, chartreuse, teal, and red; narrow, foldover hem.


Myrtle Bowers, a young African American woman, had recently graduated from college when she traveled to Guatemala in the late 1940s where she bought this dress. During World War II, the "hands across the border" policy had popularized Mexican, Central American, and South American products in the United States. After the war, they continued to be featured in fashion magazines. Therefore, it would not have seemed unusual for her to wear a dress made of Guatemalan fabrics back in the United States. She liked the dress so much that she kept it. Much later, she gave it to her daughter, who continued to wear it for many years. Exhibited in Smithsonian's America, Chiba, Japan, Summer 1994.

Credit: Gift of R. L. Davis in Memory of Myrtle Bowers Davis