Patricia Rieff Anawalt, a UCLA anthropologist who later became the chairman of Anawalt Lumber Co., died Oct. 2 at her Brentwood home after a short illness, her family said. She was 91.
Anawalt was the founding director of the Center for the Study of Regional Dress at UCLA's Fowler Museum. An authority on Mesoamerican ritual and attire, she wrote several books, including "The Worldwide History of Dress" (2007), which examined the costumes of a wide range of peoples, including Neolithic plant-fiber skirts, ancient Egyptian linen shifts and Mongolian shamanic robes.
A graduate of UCLA, where she received a PhD in anthropology in 1975, she began her career as an Aztec specialist. Once described as "an ethnological Sherlock Holmes" in Archaeology magazine, she analyzed pre-Columbian sources and systematic studies conducted by Spanish missionaries to find out what local people wore and why.
Her studies provided clues about what happened when the Spanish and Aztec cultures collided in the 1500s in what is now Mexico. She found some changes resulted from the Spaniards' introduction of technology such as the treadle loom, which produced wider pieces of fabric that could be cut and shaped to fit the body and was operated by men instead of women.
"As an anthropologist, I've always been interested in this thing that happens when two different cultures come together and something new comes out of that," she told The Times in 1993, when the Center for the Study of Regional Dress opened.
Before founding the center, Anawalt was curator of costumes and textiles at UCLA's Museum of Cultural History.
She was married for 55 years to Richard Anawalt. When he died in 2000, she succeeded him as chairman of the family-owned lumber company founded in Los Angeles in 1923.
Anawalt was born in Ripon, Calif., on March 10, 1924. Her survivors include a daughter, Katie; two sons, David and Fred; and four grandchildren.