The exhibit only has 14 dresses on display. From the information I gleaned, this was because way back when they did not realize how even the littlest light did so much damage to these historical dresses, so they rotate them to prevent even more deterioration. At the time we visited we were allowed to take photographs but we could not use any flash for obvious reasons. The following is what I got on line:
Light, climate, and gravity are all harmful to fabric. Over time, they have damaged the gowns. There are some gowns that can no longer be exhibited because they were too badly damaged by their years on display. Other dresses are rotated on and off display in order to keep them in good condition."It is hard to comprehend that this is Martha Washington's gown from the 1780's and is the oldest gown in the exhibit. It is made of salmon pink faille and is hand painted with flowers, butterflies and other insects. The collar and cuffs are reproductions.
This is Frances Cleveland's evening gown. She wore it with a fur-edged hem and a black satin and jet trim during her husband's second administration, and was made by Baltimore dressmaker, Lottie Barton.
I am not sure whose items are these, a guess might be Jane Findlay but I can't be 100 percent sure. Her portrait below shows her wearing a lace bonnet very similar to this one.
Oil portrait of Jane Findlay in about 1840 by an unknown artist. She was a Harrison family friend who came to Washington to assist with the first lady’s duties. Her gown was included in the original 1914 exhibition to represent the administration of William Henry Harrison.
This is Helen Taft’s 1909 Inaugural ball gown and is made of white silk chiffon. It is appliquéd with floral embroideries and trimmed in metallic thread, rhinestones and beads and was made by the Frances Smith Company. Her gown was the first one to be donated in 1912 so we have Mrs. Taft to thank for this wonderful exhibit.The fabric and embroidery have become discolored and most part of the skirt was replaced as part of a 1940’s conservation effort.
This very beautiful portrait is of Julia Tyler, second wife of John Tyler in about 1840.
Next is Grace Coolidge's flapper style evening dress. It is made of velvet trimmed, black and gold metallic lace over a gold lamé underdress.
Unfortunately I did not get whose dress this belonged to but there was a portrait of Pat Nixon nearby. My search online for the last hour didn't yield any results, so if you have that info and would like to pass it along, please do. I would be very grateful.
This is Mamie Eisenhower's evening gown. It is a rose-colored silk damask ball gown for a 1957 state dinner at the British Embassy. Nettie Rosenstein designed the ensemble, which included a matching purse and shoes.
Jacqueline Kennedy wore this yellow silk evening gown, designed by Oleg Cassini, with an overlay of crepe chiffon in 1961 for the Kennedy administration's first state dinner, for Tunisian president Habib Bourguiba.Finally this is Laura Bush's gown. Made of red Chantilly lace and silk satin with crystal beading, it was created by Dallas designer Michael Faircloth.
I am not sure when Michelle Obama's ball gown will appear. From what I read it could take up to two years before we will see one on display. A letter is sent from the Secretary of the Smithsonian asking her if she would donate something that would represent herself in the collection. The gown will be on view immediately after donation, another good reason to go back to see all these wonderful gowns. All were gorgeous but my favorites were the vintage ones. Clothing from these era's fascinate me.
Thank you Klaus, Sandy, Wren, Fishing Guy, Louise and Sylvia for hosting My World.