Thursday, March 11, 2010

Photo History: 1st Lady Gowns, Michelle Obama Donates Hers

From Denny: This is one historic occasion of Michelle Obama being the first African-American First Lady to donate her gorgeous inaugural gown to the musuem. Both of these video clips really show how human she is - and terribly funny!

Inaugural gown: Michelle Obama wore this one-shouldered white silk chiffon gown embellished with organza flowers with Swarovski crystal centers to the 2009 inaugural balls. It was designed by Jason Wu. No details of the dress were released before the balls and Wu did not know that Mrs. Obama had selected his design, which he intended to symbolize hope - until he saw it on television. With the gown, Mrs. Obama wore shoes by Jimmy Choo and diamond earrings, bracelets, and a ring designed for her by Loree Rodkin.

As I was watching these news videos of her I started thinking about what the collection might hold in eye candy, especially for the fashionistas out there. So, I went tripping through over 52 pages of their database and poached the historic photos and their descriptions for you to enjoy right now until you can pay a visit in person.

To view more of the First Ladies exhibit, go here:

The First Ladies at the Smithsonian

Take a look at what the American First Ladies sported as fashion in their day:

Inaugural gown: Laura Bush wore this ruby-red gown of crystal-embroidered Chantilly lace over silk georgette to the 2001 inaugural balls. Fellow Texan Michael Faircloth designed the dress.

Laura Bush, 2001

Inaugural gown: Hillary Clinton wore this violet beaded lace sheath gown with iridescent blue velvet silk mousseline overskirt to the 1993 inaugural balls. The dress was designed by Sarah Phillips and made by Barbara Matera Ltd., a New York theatrical costume maker.

Inaugural gown: Nancy Reagan wore this white beaded one-shouldered sheath gown of lace over silk satin to the 1981 inaugural balls. It was designed by James Galanos, who also designed the one-shouldered white gown Mrs. Reagan wore to her husband’s first gubernatorial inaugural ball. In interviews, Galanos said that he wanted to make Mrs. Reagan look glamorous, “... elegant and in keeping with the new formality.”

Inaugural gown: Rosalynn Carter wore this blue chiffon evening gown and sleeveless coat trimmed with gold embroidery and braid to the 1977 inaugural balls. She wore the same dress six years earlier when Jimmy Carter became governor of Georgia. It was designed by Mary Matise for Jimmae.

Inaugural gown: Pat Nixon wore this mimosa silk satin gown to the 1969 inaugural balls. Designed by Karen Stark for Harvey Berin, it was embroidered in gold and silver and encrusted with Austrian crystals. At the ball held at the Smithsonian Institution, President Nixon announced, “I like all of Pat’s dresses, particularly this one tonight, and, … when she gets finished with it, you’ll get it at the Smithsonian.”

Inaugural coat: Lady Bird Johnson wore this yellow satin gown and sable-trimmed coat to the 1965 inaugural balls. The White House did not normally discuss the first lady’s designers but, because of the “special occasion and intense interest” surrounding the inaugural gown, staff announced that it was designed by John Moore. Aware of the tradition of donating the dress for exhibit at the Smithsonian, Mrs. Johnson chose a simple design that she thought would age well.

Inaugural gown: Jacqueline Kennedy wore this off-white sleeveless gown of silk chiffon over peau d’ange to the 1961 inaugural balls. Its strapless bodice under the chiffon covering is encrusted with brilliants and embroidered with silver thread. Ethel Frankau of Bergdorf Custom Salon designed and made the dress based on sketches and suggestions from Mrs. Kennedy. It was worn with a matching cape (not displayed). Along with a description of the inaugural wardrobe, the Washington Post reported that Mrs. Kennedy’s “career as a major fashion influence was beginning impressively.”

Detail of Jacqueline Kennedy's inaugural gown, 1961

President and First Lady leaving for inaugural balls, 1961

Evening gown: Jacqueline Kennedy wore this yellow silk evening gown with an overlay of crepe chiffon in 1961 for the Kennedy administration’s first state dinner, for Tunisian President Habib Bourguiba. Oleg Cassini designed the gown.

Evening gown: Mamie Eisenhower wore this rose-colored silk damask evening gown for a 1957 state dinner at the British Embassy. Nettie Rosenstein designed the ensemble, which included a matching purse and shoes.

Inaugural gown: Eleanor Roosevelt wore this pink rayon crepe gown trimmed with lace and sequins to the 1945 inaugural reception. It was designed by Arnold Constable.

Evening gown: Grace Coolidge’s flapper-style evening dress is made of velvet-trimmed black-and-gold metallic lace over a gold lamé underdress.

Evening gown: Florence Harding’s dress features pearlized sequins on tulle and rhinestone-trimmed blue velvet ribbon. It was designed by Harry Collins.

First lady Helen Taft enthusiastically supported the establishment of the first ladies collection. When asked to contribute a dress to the exhibition, she chose the gown she wore to her husband’s 1909 inauguration. Her choice established a precedent for future first ladies and each one since who attended an inaugural ball has donated the gown she wore to that event.

Inaugural gown: Helen Taft’s 1909 inaugural ball gown is made of white silk chiffon appliquéd with floral embroideries in metallic thread and trimmed with rhinestones and beads. It was made by the Frances Smith Company. The fabric and embroidery have become discolored, and most parts of the skirt were replaced as part of a 1940s conservation effort.

Evening coat: Helen Taft’s green satin Manchu-style coat is embroidered with spring and summer symbols of goldfish and lotus flowers, but is lined with fleece. The fur trim is not typical of the Chinese style and was probably added as a custom order.

Evening gown: Frances Cleveland wore this silk evening gown with fur-edged hem and black-satin-and-jet trim during her husband’s second administration. It was made by Baltimore dressmaker Lottie Barton.

Evening gown: Lucy Hayes wore this gold damask and cream satin gown to the White House New Year’s reception in 1880. It was made by Mrs. M. A. Connelly, a New York dressmaker.

Evening gown: Julia Grant wore this white silk damask evening gown in the early 1870s. According to the Grant family, the rose-patterned fabric was a gift from the emperor of China. The underskirt is a prop.

Evening gown: Mary Lincoln wore this silk taffeta two-piece dress in 1861, with an evening bodice as the top piece. The pattern of black stripes and purple flowers is woven into the silk. Later in the 19th century, the original evening bodice was replaced with this daytime bodice made of fabric taken from the skirt.

Evening gown: Sarah Polk first wore this light-blue brocaded silk dress woven with a design of poinsettias in the late 1840s. It was remade as an evening gown, probably for her niece, in the 1880s.

Evening coat: Dolley Madison’s silk satin open robe is hand-embroidered with flowers, butterflies, dragonflies, and phoenixes. It is typical of the style of the late 1810s.

Engraving of Martha Washington as a young woman, drawn by J. Oliver Stone after the original painting by John Wollaston and engraved by J. C. Buttre in 1878

Evening gown: Martha Washington wore this silk taffeta gown in the early 1780s. The silk is painted with a design of flowers, butterflies, and other insects. The collar and cuffs are reproductions.

To view more of the exhibit and history, go here: The First Ladies at the Smithsonian

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