Smithsonian's 'First Ladies' Exhibit an Intimate History

The Smithsonian's "The First Ladies" (Getty Images)

"The First Ladies," a new exhibit at the Smithsonian Institution, offers a more intimate look at the women who have inhabited the White House, Robin Givhan writes at the Daily Beast. Michelle Obama's white inaugural gown holds center court, she writes.

A new exhibition drawing from the First Ladies Collection at the National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C., includes one painted paper fan, a wowzer of a silver tea service, one well-worn silk shoe, a lump of charred wood, a wealth of china, and one sweetly autographed copy of Treasure Island — in addition to the beloved inaugural ballgowns, cocktail dresses, and day suits that typically leave visitors swooning. 


The collection, one of the most popular exhibitions at the Smithsonian, has been re-examined and re-configured in a new East Wing gallery space in anticipation of a major renovation that will close the museum’s West Wing. This more intimate look at the first ladies — or at least their accoutrement — opens to the public Nov. 19.

Michelle Obama’s white inaugural gown — designed by Jason Wu — still holds center court in the new exhibition. And like the other gowns worn by Hillary Clinton, Laura Bush, Lady Bird Johnson, and all the rest, it remains a glittering national symbol of culture, femininity, and complicated political gamesmanship.

Read Robin Givhan's entire story at the Daily Beast.

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