Saturday, 13 July 2013

Washington: The Dress at the Museum of American History

Michelle Obama's 2009 inaugural ballgown
The Smithsonian is great because it's free, but the venerable institution also collects all kinds of things. And in the case of the Museum of American History, it's all things from the ol' U-S of A.

A closer look at the bodice
We didn't tour the entire museum, but we were drawn in by the exhibition of the inaugural ball gowns worn by practically all the First Ladies.

The latest in the collection of course is the one worn by Michelle Obama in 2009. Designed by Jason Wu, it's an ivory-coloured one-shouldered dress with a fitted bodice and flared skirt.

At the time the 26-year-old Wu was a virtual no name on the radar, but now has become the hottest designer in town. And it was very appropriate for her to pick not only a young talent, but an immigrant from Taiwan.

The dress is now in the museum, and in a short video recording the ceremony inducting the ensemble complete with the Jimmy Choo shoes and jewellery, Michelle Obama admitted she was uncomfortable with having her clothes put on show. But she understood the significance of the inaugural ball and of course complied.

A detail shot the embroidery and beading of the train
Up close the dress is gorgeous, flowing and has lots of detail beading and sequins. We get to see how large her feet are and the amazing ring which if I remember correctly had a 13-carat diamond in it.

We get to compare her dress with that of Nancy Regan (very sophisticated), Barbara Bush (very large), Laura Bush (very conservative) and Hillary Clinton (trying too hard). We also see the gowns of Lady Bird Johnson, Jacqueline Kennedy and Rosalynn Carter and many others.

Now that Obama's back in the White House and Michelle Obama chose Wu again to create her fire-engine ballroom gown, we wonder if that dress too will be in the Smithsonian?

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