Called the “Dior of the Desert” by the Los Angeles Times, Tucson designer Dolores Gonzales made a regional resort “it dress” that snared even First Ladies’ attention. In the 1940s and 50s, Gonzales designed one and two-piece dresses that featured a full, “broomstick” skirt and were made in bright, colorful fabrics. The style soon became a favorite during sorority rush at the University of Arizona and was eventually worn by First Ladies Mamie Eisenhower and Pat Nixon, according to The Tucson Sentinel and the Arizona Daily Star. Gonzales’ designs soon became a popular emblem of Western fashion. Though retail chain J.C. Penney wanted to sell her dresses, Gonzales refused, preferring to personally produce them in her own factory, according to the Star. Her distinctive designs have since been the subject of historical Tucson exhibitions.
Tucson Fashionista is an occasional and ongoing Zona Girl series on local women with legendary style.