Building and Refurbishing the White House | Remaining Open to the People | Official Occasions | White House Weddings | Creating a Private Life

Dessert plate used by James and Elizabeth Monroe, 1817

The White House serves many functions. As a historic building, it contains objects used over a period of two centuries. It is also where the president and first lady preside over ceremonies and official greetings. And it is the home of the presidential family.

While the first family needs to remain accessible to the American people, its members also must have space and time to escape from the pressures and scrutiny of their official roles. Balancing their public and private lives has proved one of the greatest challenges facing occupants of the fishbowl that is the White House.

First Lady Grace Coolidge's evening dress
One of the White House's most stylish and popular hostesses, first lady Grace Coolidge wore this chiffon velvet evening dress during her husband's administration. The dress, typical of the 1920s' "flapper" fashion, has a detachable train (not shown) and matching velvet shoes with rhinestone trim.

President Warren G. Harding wore these elegant silk pajamas made by Chavert & Fils, Inc., of New York and Paris. His monogram is embroidered on the pocket.

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National Museum of American History