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Martha of Taos founder Martha Jane Reed was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, on April 23, 1922.
Both parents were artists and Doel, her father, was elected to the National Academy of Design.
His works are held by several museums and libraries in the United States, France, and Great Britain.

The family moved to Oklahoma in 1924. In 1944, Reed graduated from Oklahoma A&M University (now Oklahoma State) with a degree in art.

She began her career as director of Philbrook Museum of Art in Tulsa, then took a position at the Dallas Museum of Art in Texas.

Reed studied art on the graduate level for 2 more years before moving to Taos, New Mexico, in 1953. Her parents had moved there 6 years prior, as the dry desert climate eased Doel’s chronic respiratory condition.

She took a job at The Pink Horse shop and on her first day, owner Al Thorwaldsen admired her original clothing. He convinced Martha to design for his shop, hiring seamstresses to create her broomstick skirts, blouses, and Navajo shirts.

Next, she opened a Southwestern dress shop with John McCarthy.

In 1955 she opened her own shop, Martha of Taos. Her friend Lucy Archuleta served as head seamstress. The shop remained in business in the same location for 38 years. Clientele included celebrities and politicians.

The broomstick skirt of cotton calico was her signature design. She later added velvet models, as well as blouses and dresses.

According to Reed, her broomstick skirts were constructed using 14 yards of fabric, and following a mathematical formula: “The bottom tier of fine pleats consists of 8 yards; the middle layer has fewer, softer pleats in 4 yards of fabric; the top layer is minimally pleated and only 2 yards at the waist. This makes it much more flattering and less bulky.”

Reed died in Taos on Dec. 28, 2010, age 88.

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from a late 1970s/early 1980s skirt - Courtesy of

from a late 1970s/early 1980s skirt

Courtesy of