On Thursday, First Lady Melania Trump, made an announcement about her elegant inaugural ball gown. Melania announced the ball gown was donated to the National Museum of American History (home of the Ruby Slippers). It has been a long standing tradition for the First Ladies of the United States to donate their ball gowns that they wore on their debut as First Lady during inauguration.
According to the Smithsonian National Museum of American History:
“The Tradition of the Gowns
Following the pattern established in 1912 by collection founders Cassie Mason Myers Julian-James and Rose Gouverneur Hoes, the Smithsonian Institution asks each first lady to donate a dress to represent her in the collection.
As the popularity of the collection has grown, so has the ceremony surrounding the donation of the dresses. Early donations were informal affairs and often happened after the first lady had left the White House. Modern gown presentations are staged media events publicizing both the Smithsonian and the first lady.
In the 1920s it became customary to add the first lady’s gown to the exhibition after she had left the White House. The public’s desire to see Mamie Eisenhower’s inaugural dress prompted the Smithsonian to reconsider that policy. When Mrs. Eisenhower formally opened the new First Ladies Hall in 1955, her famous pink ball gown was prominently displayed. A formal gown presentation gives the Smithsonian the chance to thank the first lady publicly for her donation and, most important, is an opportunity for her to see her gown on display for the first time. Pat Nixon fondly recalled the inaugural ball held at the Museum and thought that her gown looked beautiful on its mannequin.
In 1964, Lady Bird Johnson started a tradition when she came to the Smithsonian’s new Museum of History and Technology (now the National Museum of American History) to present a gown to the collection in a formal ceremony. Originally, she was represented by the evening gown she wore at a White House state dinner for British prime minister Harold Wilson. Mrs. Johnson later donated her 1965 inaugural ball gown to the collection.Gown presentations are media events that guarantee positive publicity for both the Smithsonian and the White House. They are also private events that can include receptions and special tours for the first lady and invited guests. In 1978, Rosalynn Carter opened a portion of the activities to the public when she presented her gown on the Mall terrace of the Smithsonian’s Museum of History and Technology (now the National Museum of American History).”
Melania’s tweet, announcing she had donated her gown.
“Honored today to donate my inaugural couture piece to the @amhistorymuseum !”
— Melania Trump (@FLOTUS) October 20, 2017
Please view the video below to see the Historic Portraits of all the First Ladies from Martha to Melania 1878 to 2017 – 139 years of First Ladies:
“The oldest gown in the collection belonged to Martha Washington. The oldest inaugural gown in the collection belonged to Andrew Jackson’s niece, Emily Donelson, who wore it to his 1829 inaugural ball” per the Smithsonian. This is a photo of Mary Todd Lincoln.
Would you like to make a trip to Washington and visit the Gown collection? Drop a note below and let us know if you have been there or would like to go.
(Feature Photo compliments of YouTube)