Birth of La China Poblana

China Poblana, a style of dress worn by Mexican women for celebrations throughout Mexico and the United States, has a rich history that might surprise you. China Poblana was the name or term given to domestic servants in Mexico referring to Indigenous women hired for work in the households of wealthy Hispanics. It wasn’t until the Mexican Revolution in 1910 that the Mexican Eagle was incorporated into the skirt of the outfit that became the National Costume of Mexico.

Birth of La China Poblana: How Mexico’s Women Stitched Together a Nation’s Identity featured dresses, embroidered elements, historic photos, and a detailed history of the dress. The public was invited to visit the exhibit and learn about the history of this beautiful garment and the women who brought it to life.

The exhibit was on view at Gutiérrez Hubbell House from February 4, 2022 through April 16, 2022.


GHH Interpretive Team Training

Friday, February 4 • 3:30 p.m. – 4:30 p.m.
This program was open to anyone interested in learning more about volunteering as museum guide for this exhibit.

Exhibit Opening Reception

Saturday, February 5 • 3 p.m. – 5 p.m.
Meet Guest Curator Nora Chavez to ask your questions and get your first chance to see this sumptuous display! 

Curator Talk: Birth of la China Poblana

Saturday, March 12 • 1 p.m. 
Hear directly from Guest Curator Nora Chavez as she shares her insights and anecdotes from her research into the China Poblana. See pictures of celebrities in the China Poblana and learn about how the dress is still made today by Mexican artisans in and out of Mexico. The talk will be followed by a guided tour of the exhibit.

Hands-On Embroidery Workshop

Join Guest Curator Nora Chavez for this hands-on workshop as she takes you through the basics of embroidery. Explore the skills used to create the beautiful China Poblana dresses on display with an expert!

Materials are provided. No experience necessary.

Saturday, March 19 • 1 p.m. – 3 p.m.

Saturday, March 26 • 1 p.m. – 3 p.m.

El Camino Real Trade Fair

Camino Real: Our Connections to Mexico
Saturday, April 9 • 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.

Final Tour

Saturday, April 16 • 11 a.m. 

About the Curator


American costume designer Nora Chavez was born and raised in south Texas. Nora gets the burning desire for creating beautiful things and an eye for fashion from her grand aunt Tia Cruz Rodriguez, a Lipan Apache from Laredo, TX who taught her sewing and designing skills. Tia Cruz learned by attending an Indian Mission School in southeast Texas. Nora remembers designing and creating outfits from scratch sewing by hand with her grand aunt and on her Singer treadle sewing machine. Her grand aunt designed couture outfits for her prominent and well-known employer, the Leyendecker Family in Laredo, TX at the height of 1920’s fashion.

Nora’s love for traditional costumes from cultures around the world brought her to love the China Poblana “traje” or outfit worn by women of Mexico for holidays and events. The China Poblana history is full of mystery and intrigue. Learning the history and background of the China Poblana Traje became a personal goal for her after discovering a photo of her mother wearing the outfit. After a year’s worth of research Nora decided to submit her white paper to the Costumer’s Society of America in 2016 for review. This display shows a small part of her collection and interest into the world of the China Poblana.

After attending college in Texas, Nora moved to Los Angeles study and to pursue a career in fashion design and costuming. She attended the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising where she graduated in 1981. To gain hands-on experience she worked in several theaters throughout LA County, honed her fitting skills at Western Costume and NBC Studios wardrobe department. After several years of costuming in Los Angeles and also working as a facilities manager at a local woman’s shelter, Nora made a sudden move in 1994 after the Northridge Earthquake shook her apartment until everything single thing was destroyed. She survived the “big one” and packed up what was left, a few clothes and her vacuum cleaner and headed to New Mexico.

Nora continues to work as a seamstress and costume designer in Albuquerque, New Mexico for private clients and for the Black History Leadership Council for several stage presentations. She has designed outfits for Renaissance Faires, Viking Fairs, and special event gatherings. Her work specializes from haute couture pieces to quick-change pull away designs for theater. Because of the immense cost of making theatrical outfits, Nora continues to develop techniques to create  costumes under the most cost-effective methods.

Her collection of China Poblana outfits and research materials, books, swatches, and sequins are cherished and displayed in her home.