The First Ladies explores the unofficial but important position of first lady and the ways that different women have shaped the role to make their own contributions to the presidential administrations and the nation. The exhibition features more than two dozen gowns from the Smithsonian’s almost 100-year old First Ladies Collection, including those worn by Frances Cleveland, Lou Hoover, Jacqueline Kennedy, Laura Bush, and Michelle Obama. A section titled “Changing Times, Changing First Ladies” highlights the roles played by Dolley Madison, Mary Lincoln, Edith Roosevelt, and Lady Bird Johnson and their contributions to their husband’s administrations. The First Ladies encourages visitors to consider the changing role played by the first lady and American women over the past 200 years.
Now on display through January 19, 2015: First Lady Michelle Obama’s second inaugural gown worn to the January Inaugural balls in 2013. The ruby-colored chiffon gown, on loan from the White House, commemorates the centennial of the first ladies exhibition at the Smithsonian.
The First Ladies at the Smithsonian website chronicles the history of the display of First Ladies' gowns at the Smithsonian and includes many images of dresses and other items in the collection.