Pedro Rodriguez sheath dress, c. 1965


A recent debate in the New York Times asked, Has Globalization Ruined Street Style? The question itself is premised on the belief that the combination of extensive social media networks and global clothing retailers have eliminated regional variations in dress. Though the debate participants had differing opinions about whether globalization has been good or bad for street style, it is undeniable that globalization has softened obvious differences in global dress. Subtle differences exist, but they are usually found in small details or overall styling.

The article made me think about designers with a a primarily regional following. Holly Harp, who worked in Los Angeles and drew inspiration from the glamour of Old Hollywood, is one such designer. Another is Pedro Rodriguez, a Spanish designer largely unknown outside of his native country. Rodriguez had a long career, opening his first salon in 1918, and didn't retire until the early 1980s. If by some lucky chance you'll be in Barcelona in the next few days, an exhibition titled "What to Wear?" focuses on his work. Our Pedro Rodriguez pink silk faille evening sheath dates from c. 1965.

S2009897159Embellished sheath dress
Pedro Rodriguez
c. 1965
Gift of Stephen Porterfield

English language sources on Pedro Rodriguez are sparse, to say the least. Like his compatriot and friend Cristobal Balenciaga, Rodriguez moved to Paris at the beginning of the Spanish Civil War in 1936/7. Though Balenciaga remained in Paris after the end of the war in 1939, Rodriguez returned to his native country and quickly reestablished himself. New Pedro Rodriguez salons opened in San Sebastian (1939) and Madrid (1941). The Spain that Rodriguez returned to was under the authoritarian rule of Francisco Franco. During Franco's reign, from 1939 until 1975, Spain existed in relative cultural and political isolation. It was probably because of this climate that Rodriguez's reputation was confined largely to Spain. 

In 1952, an unnamed Spanish import/export house hosted a Spanish Festival of Fashion in Madrid. The festival, which featured the work of Pedro Rodriguez and four other Spanish design houses, was designed to lure North American clothing buyers to Spain. This was the first attempt to market Spanish fashion to an international audience. Coverage of this event was lukewarm, but was the beginning of sporadic coverage of Spanish designers in the fashion press. In reports on Spanish fashion, Pedro Rodriguez was consistently described as the preeminent Spanish designer working in Spain.

S2009897159-2 S2009.897.159

Rodriguez was frequently associated with lavish surface embellishment. This evening sheath features all-over floral and scroll motif embroidery using seed beads, rhinestones, pearls and sequins. A 1958 special to the New York Times on Spanish fashion described Rodriguez as "long-famed in Spain for his lavishly beaded and sequined evening dresses."1 Some of Balenciaga's work demonstrates a similar interest in surface decoration, including this 1962 black velvet cocktail dress with beads and embroidery. In Balenciaga's work, this style of embellishement is often described as being inspired by historic Spanish dress, and/or the garb of Spanish bullfighters. While it would be premature to make a blanket statement about embellishment and Spanish design, its interesting to speculate that these two Spanish designers may have drawn inspiration from the same cultural resources, and possibly each other.

Circling back to the influence of globalization on fashion, it's intriguing to think about current regional trends. Despite the impact of globalization, there are still mini-trends or aesthetic tendencies that are regionally specific. Within the US, there are definite stereotypes about major cities. As we all know, New Yorkers wear only black clothing, while Los Angelenos are always dressed for the beach. What other regional trends have you observed, either in your local area or during recent travels?


1 "Spain: The Fall Fashion Trends from Abroad." New York Times 19 July 1955: 24.

2 responses to “Pedro Rodriguez sheath dress, c. 1965

  1. Manuela Knight says:

    My wedding dressed was designed by Pedro Rodriguez in August 1963 in Barcelona. I still have the dress which survived a deadly house fire in 2007.

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