First Lady Michelle Obama formally presented the gown she wore to the 2009 inaugural balls to the Smithsonians First Ladies Collection Tuesday, March 9, during a ceremony at the National Museum of American History
. The gown will be displayed in the center of a new gallery addition to the museums popular exhibition, The First Ladies at the Smithsonian. The new gallery, A First Ladys Debut, opens to the public March 10. The one-shouldered, white-silk chiffon gown, created by designer Jason Wu, is embellished with organza flowers with Swarovski crystal centers.
For decades, the First Ladies Collection has been one of the most popular attractions at the Smithsonian Institution. The original first ladies exhibition of 1914 was the first display at the Smithsonian to prominently feature women. The exhibition itself has changed in size, location, style and story several times over the years.
Today Michelle Obama continues a nearly century-long tradition that is important to American history and beloved by the public, said Brent D. Glass, director of the museum. The donation of an inaugural gown is a long-held tradition and the most visible of the objects our historians collect to document and explore the contributions of first ladies to the presidency and American society.
When we look at the dress that Jackie Kennedy wore 50 years ago, or the one that Mary Todd Lincoln wore 100 years before that, it takes us beyond the history books and the photographs and helps us understand that history is made by talented people, said First Lady Michelle Obama. The dress I donated today, made by Jason Wu, is a masterpiece. Its simple, its elegant and it comes from the brilliant mind of someone who is living the American Dream.
Beginning with Mamie Eisenhower, the new gallery focuses on each first ladys public introduction during the inauguration or beginning of her husbands presidency and includes contemporary accounts of initial impressions about each woman and the role she might play in the White House. A First Ladys Debut, features life-size photos of the 11 women who have filled the position over the past 50 years, each one wearing her displayed gown.
Together, the two galleries that make up The First Ladies at the Smithsonian showcase 24 dresses and more than 100 other objects, including portraits, White House china, personal possessions and related artifacts from the Smithsonians unique collection of first ladies materials. Among the dresses displayed in the exhibitions first gallery are Martha Washingtons silk taffeta gown, Grace Coolidges flapper-style evening dress and Helen Tafts 1909 inaugural ball gownthe first to be presented to the Smithsonian by a first lady.
The exhibition is divided into four main sections: the evolution of the First Ladies Collection, the tradition of the inaugural gown, a first ladys contribution to the presidency and American society and the public debut of Americas more recent first ladies.