Michelle Obama to donate inaugural gown to Smithsonian’s first ladies collection Tuesday

By Darlene Superville, AP
Friday, March 5, 2010

Mrs. Obama to donate inaugural gown to Smithsonian

WASHINGTON — The one-shouldered, white chiffon gown first lady Michelle Obama wore to the inaugural balls is going on display.

Mrs. Obama is donating the gown to the First Ladies Collection at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History on Tuesday.

Dotted with beads and covered in fabric petals, the gown was a star attraction at 10 inaugural balls held in January 2009 to celebrate President Barack Obama’s swearing-in. Designer Jason Wu, 27, of New York, planned to join Mrs. Obama for the event.

The Smithsonian is scheduled Wednesday to open a new gallery for the first ladies exhibit, one of its most popular attractions. The new addition will serve as a showcase for first ladies from Mamie Eisenhower, who served from 1953 to 1961, to Mrs. Obama.

All first ladies since 1912 have contributed to the collection. The Smithsonian asks each one to donate something that represents her. While donating the inaugural ball gown has become tradition, it is not required. The collection also has White House china and other personal items.

With Mrs. Obama’s gift, the new gallery will have 10 inaugural gowns on display. There were no inaugural celebrations for Gerald Ford, who became president after Richard Nixon resigned during the Watergate scandal, so Betty Ford donated a dress she wore to a state dinner.

The entire exhibit will show 24 first ladies’ dresses, including 12 inaugural gowns.

Mrs. Obama has invited students studying fashion at Huntington High School in New York to attend Tuesday’s ceremony.

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