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Armando Valdés Peza

Armando Valdés Peza (May 24, 1907 - July 1, 1970) was a fashion designer, actor and writer with a long list on IMDB of credits.  Armando was the son of Pedro Valdes Fraga, violinist, and María Peza Echegaray, daughter of the poet Juan de Dios Peza. Between 1944 and 1946 he returned from Hollywood. Before he went to Hollywood, he lived in Piedmont, California with Elsie Whitaker Martinez (ex wife of artist Xavier Martinez at 816 Scenic Ave) and her long term partner, Harriet Dean at their home at 747 Scenic Avenue.

Micaelea Martinez Oral History Interview:

pg 325


[Interview date: March 27, 1984]

Riess:    You were saying that your mother gave so much to everyone.


DuCasse:          Oh, yes, to Marian. Marian said that she learned so much, just by listening to Pal and Pellie. Also, at that time, our household included Armando Valdes Peza, who was a talented young Mexican who came to this country after the 1927 revolution. His family were aristocrats, and they were completely put down and their money and everything was taken away from them. But the family scraped enough together to send him up here for his education. He arrived in the Bay Area and someone sent him to Piedmont High School because there was a very fine art teacher, Mrs. Sonnenschein, there at the time. She found that this poor boy, very sensitive with very little English, was so talented, and she got in touch with my father and said, "Here's somebody that you can help. He really needs your help."


He came up to the studio, and I'll never forget the day he came. He was a few years older than me, perhaps three or four, but still a youngster. And, oh, so proper. He was so thrilled when he met Marty and Marty spoke to him in Spanish, and then they just had a wonderful time. He began coming to see us, and then finally--he didn't really need the high school training, he

needed art school--Marty got him a scholarship at Arts and Crafts, and he lived with us for two years (at 747 Scenic Avenue Piedmont, California). So he was like a brother to me. It was wonderful. And he said that that experience of living in our home and being educated, mentally, by my mother and Pal, was the greatest thing that had ever happened in his life.


He was an extraordinary artist. He went back to Mexico eventually, and got lost in the world of the faded aristocrat--many of them had come from Spain, and they lived this crazy kind of life. [brief tape interruption after phone rings] He loved, of course, that world, couldn't help himself, and he loved luxury, and instead of being willing to have starved to become the great painter that he could have been, he took the easier path and he became very well known as a dress designer. He had a very up-to-date column in one of the best of the Mexican papers which kept track of all the fancy people and their activities.

He had a wonderful life, but there was always, I think, a dichotomy within him; he knew that he had sacrificed something, a great capacity he had which he had never fulfilled. So this was very hard for him. He came to see us several times, and there was always this tragic kind of turmoil within him. Of course, you could do nothing for him because he had chosen and there was nothing to be done.


Letters of a Violinist; Costume Designer; Choreographer, 1920s-1930s, Auction:


Approx. 46 letters and postcards in Spanish, all addressed to Armando Valdes Peza in Berkeley, California, 1929. They are sent from Pedro Valdes Fraga; Maria (possibly actress Maria Felix, to whom Peza was a confidant). 2.) Approx. 35 letters and postcards from Armando Valdes Peza, mostly from Los Angeles, some from Mexico, to Harriet Dean in Piedmont, 1930-1933. Plus, many have copies of Harriet's replies enclosed. The group includes a Western Union telegram from Armando requesting $30, to help him with a "great opportunity in Mexico right now". In Harriet's reply, she writes "Nothing could please us more than to start you on your way to Mexico--towards your 'great opportunity'". The letters are newsy, personal/affectionate, and supportive, discussing matters of family, friends, and career. 3.) Approx. 24 letters from Lester Horton in Los Angeles to Harriet Dean in Piedmont (plus many with copies of Harriet's reply letters), 1929-1934. He signs most of his letters "Quache".


This group providesthe connection between Lester and Armando (and perhaps Harriet's acquaintance with Armando through Horton, who was from Harriet's hometown, Indianapolis). There is one quietly passionate letter from Lester to Armando (sent care of California School of Arts and Crafts). He writes: "It was very hard for me to say goodbye, you understand?"The other notable aspect to this group is Lester's humorous addresses to Harriet as "Aunt Hattie", signifying her supportive role in his life, and also affectionately calls her and Elsie "The Kids". Both of the men appear to have entrusted Harriet with their personal letters. In addition, some of his letters are illustrated, and in some he discusses his performance projects and Indian culture interests. Armando Valdes Peza was the son of violinist Pedro Valdes Fraga and Maria Peza Echergaray. He was a couturier who designed for actresses Maria Felix and Dolores del Rio, for plays and films, working both in Mexico City and Hollywood. As an actor, he appeared in theater and films, including Wuthering Heights (1946). Lester Horton was from Indianapolis, Indiana, arriving in California in 1929. He had an interest in and studied Native American culture, which informed his choreography. In 1932 he formed his own dance company, The Lester Horton Dancers, and later The Dance Theater of Los Angeles. Alvin Ailey studied with Horton, and after his death established his own studio with the company's dancers. From the Family of Xavier Martinez (1869-1943), Elsie Whitaker Martinez (1890-1984), and Micaela Martinez DuCasse (1913-1989).

Xavier Martinez: Letters to His Daughter, 1932-1942 Auction:


Topics include: his worry for Kai as she travels; mention of artist Kisa (Beck); an invite for an "old guard dinner" at Bohemian Grove that he feels he can't attend; discussion of bookbinding, and remembering his father (who was a bookbinder in Mexico); word of his sick sister; and news of Mexico from Armando (Valdes Peza).

Maria Félix, Diego Rivera, Armando Valdés Peza, Frida kahlo, y Enrique Alvarez F. 1950. (Originally in Spanish):

From Mexico to Mexico: Armando Valdés Peza
April 12, 2022

By Jaqueline Quesada Contreras

Armando Valdés Peza, the most influential designer in Mexican cinema, worked on at least ninety-seven films, leaving a significant mark on the national and Latin American style. The 1942 film, I danced with Don Porfirio , was one of his first steps to establish himself as the most important costume designer of the decade. His participation in films such as El monje blanco , La mujer de todos and Vértigo led to his designs being nominated three times for the Ariel award, an award that the Mexican Academy of Cinematographic Arts and Sciences awards annually to professionals in the film industry. cinema in Mexico.

Analyzing the life and work of Armando Valdés Peza we find two determining factors in his career: the first was the way of presenting clothes to the public through film illustrations and the other was his friendship with film artists such as Columba Domínguez, Gloria Marin, Maria Felix and Dolores del Rio.

All of them are currently recognized worldwide as fashion icons, thanks to the fact that Valdés Peza was always behind them with his impeccable styling skills .

Armando Valdés Peza was known for being a great admirer of the Greek aesthetic and the great European fashion houses. His designs quickly distinguished themselves for being elegant, fine and for constantly using different materials that added shine to the garments. One of his most well-known and emblematic designs was the wedding dress he created for María Félix at her wedding to Jorge Negrete. 

Valdés Peza was also a chronicler and had several controversies in his professional life, due to his controversial opinion of high fashion in the country. He assured that luxury brands would not be as successful in Mexico, compared to the trajectory of other European designers. His main argument was that the country did not have the capacity to create fashion, due to the industry, the manufacture of fabrics and talent.

Armando Valdés Peza continued to show his ability to design glamorous and innovative outfits for different periods until his sudden death in 1970. His legacy left us the foundations to continue building the identity of fashion in Mexico. As we continue along this path, it is worth taking up the premises that this great designer left us: is Mexico currently prepared to create and consume high fashion? Who have the innovative minds and hands that will take Mexico to the next level?

Armando Valdés Peza.png

Fort Lauderdale News - Wed - Sep. 9, 1959

Text based on notes by Salvador Novo and translated from Spanish:


Fashion designer, actor and writer. Armando was the son of Pedro Valdes Fraga, violinist, and María Peza Echegaray. daughter of the poet Juan de Dios Peza. Between 1944 and 1946 he returned from Hollywood. A friend of Salvador Novo, with whom he shared many anecdotes about the socialite, he was called "Mandy" by the Chronicler.

He was head designer for María Félix, Dolores del Río and MIroslava among other celebrities. He was an inseparable friend of La Doña, her confidante on many occasions. Valdés Peza, he was in charge of the column "Crónicas de México", as a social chronicler in El Universal, which he inherited from Luis G. Basurto when he died. As an actor, he had significant roles in Wuthering Heights (1946) and Cyrano among others.

He was in charge of the wardrobe for films such as: Someone wants to kill us (1970), Marriage and sex (1965), Teenage love (1964), I have killed a man (1962), Behind the clouds (1962), La fièvre monte à El Pao (1959), Doña Diabla (1950), La bien paga (1948), Enamorada (1946). The great Makakikus (1944), Pharaoh's court (1944), Mexico of my memories (1944), María Candelaria (1944), El peñón de las ánimas (1942), I dance with Don Porfirio and Las Abandonadas among others.

He made the costumes for the following plays: "Road to Rome" (1959), Lady Windemere's fan (1958), The lady of hearts (1961), Wuthering Heights (1946), With you bread and onion.

In addition to being the fashion designer for the stars and high society of his time, his fame was such that it was said that those who competed and triumphed at the Ópera de Bellas Artes were: Trixi and Valdéz Plaza. Armando, made the costumes for different plays. Armando died at his house of a sudden heart attack. He was laid to rest at Gayosso Chapel 20, Sullivan, his body was cremated.

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