WASHINGTON, DC.- The Smithsonians National Museum of American History
is showing First Lady Michelle Obamas second inaugural gown worn to the January 2013 inaugural balls beginning today. This special one-year loan from the White House coincides with the centennial of the First Ladies exhibition at the Smithsonian and the museums 50th anniversary. The gown is being displayed in the center of the museums popular exhibition, The First Ladies.
The long ruby-colored chiffon gown, with a cross-halter strap neckline and deep back, custom-made by designer Jason Wu, features velvet details. Obama paired the gown with shoes designed by Jimmy Choo, which will also be displayed alongside the gown. The white dress from the first Obama inauguration, which was a gift to the museum, will not be on display for the year.
For a century, the First Ladies Collection has been one of the most popular attractions at the Smithsonian. The original First Ladies exhibition opened Feb. 1, 1914, and was the first display at the Smithsonian to prominently feature women. The exhibition itself has changed in size, location, style and focus several times during the past 100 years, and the museum, which opened in 1964 as the Museum of History and Technology, has been its home for 50 years.
We hope that this loan begins a new tradition of allowing the public to see the second inaugural gown before it goes on display in the future presidential library, said John Gray, director of the museum. The donation of the first inaugural gown to the Smithsonian is a long-held tradition and this loan will enhance the visitors experience to one of the most popular attractions at the Smithsonian.
The museums current The First Ladies exhibition opened Nov. 19, 2011, and features 26 dresses and more than 160 other objects, ranging from those of Martha Washington to Michelle Obama, and includes White House china, personal possessions and other objects from the Smithsonians unique collection of First Ladies materials, established in 1912. Among the dresses displayed in the exhibition are Grace Coolidges flapper-style evening gown, Jackie Kennedys yellow-silk gown worn to the Kennedy administrations first state dinner in 1961 and Eleanor Roosevelts slate blue crepe gown, which she wore to the 1933 inaugural ball.
First Ladies are unofficial but important members of presidential administrations. For more than 200 years the public has judged their clothes, their parties, their projects and their roles in the White House. The exhibition examines this in four main sections:
The Fashionable First Lady explores the publics interest in the First Ladies fashions. Only a few First Ladies have become fashion icons, inspiring trends and promoting American designers, but all have had their wardrobes scrutinized by the American public, continuing the debate over what is appropriate for presidential style.
The Nations Hostess looks at the role that the First Lady has played for the nation and the presidential administrations. Each reception or dinner is an opportunity for the First Lady to help build Americas international relationships, win political friends and public support for the President, or further his administrations legislative agenda. Each First Lady puts her own stamp on presidential hospitality.
Inauguration and Opportunities looks at the inauguration of a President as a time of optimism and new beginnings. In addition to attending ceremonies and balls, incoming First Ladies announce the agendas and special projects they intend to pursue. Some projects are ambitious. Some are traditional. Some may be controversial.
Changing Times, Changing First Ladies highlights Dolley Madison, Mary Lincoln, Edith Roosevelt and Lady Bird Johnson, who all fashioned their own ways of handling the White House, families, parties and politics. During different times and circumstances they crafted significant roles for themselves that they believed would allow them to best serve the President and the country.