The First Ladies

Gowns in The First Ladies exhibition

Please note: The First Ladies exhibition will be closed June 8-21 due to necessary gallery maintenance.

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.

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.

Note: the formerly-offered interactive tour of the First Ladies gallery has been retired due to incompatibility with current web standards.