Sunday, September 17, 2017
1950's Patio Dress: Close up
This patio dress from the 1950's is a classic type. It features the signature tiered skirt in tiny pleats lined with rows of silver and turquoise rickrack and woven trim, called a 'broomstick' style. The top is a separate blouse, 3/4 length kimono sleeves, and decorated with a mock-necklace "V" silver rickrack and woven trim. This has a typical turn-up collar with "V" open neckline.
These dresses were very popular for casual wear during the post WWII years. At that time, there was a strong interest in ethnic inspired fashions with a casual style. Soft, loose and comfortable looks were created by many Arizona and California regional designers to wear as hostess dresses and for special occasions. This tiered skirt played perfectly with the crinoline "New Look" silhouette of that era. Although many women wore the skirt without a petticoat, it could be worn quite full. Later this style would merge with square dance dresses to create that extra circle skirt fullness.
This department store advertisement from Phoenix, Arizona shows a similar patio dress look with the "V" emphasis on the bodice. Many of these were designed and produced by Hispanic designer Dolores Gonzales and her brother in Tucson, Arizona. They created a local industry with a huge demand. She is often credited with launching this south/west garment, made to worn for special occasions and fiestas locally, becoming emblematic for the region, and adopted by tourists who saw them and wanted their own.
A cotton set by Alex Coleman, California designer, was part of a 1951 collection that emphasized native american influences in the outfit. It shows a tiered gathered fiesta skirt that has a color shift with each ruffle from a darker bottom to a lighter top. The top is embellished with appliques.
The terms used to describe this dress often include the use of the word "Squaw". For a look into this topic, as well as the history of this dress as it was originally founded by Dolores Gonzales in Tucson, Arizona, you will want to refer to "The Squaw Dress: Tucson's controversial but unique fashion history" with comments from Dr. Nancy Parezo of the University of Arizona, professor of American Indian studies and anthropology.
Dress shown is currently available online at Pintuck Style.