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February 19, 2009


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good evenning,can you tell me how all dresses come in to museum? first ledies present them to museum?appologize, if that question is not correct((


Peyton, the original bust was based on a young woman who was not a First Lady (I forget if she was merely someone the artist admired, or a relative of his), and, while attractive, was very misleading. As a costume historian, I am very pleased that the focus is on the clothes, rather than trying to recreate the exact features of a previous First Lady. The display as it is now is impressive and extensive, especially when compared with the temporary exhibit - I urge everyone to come see it!

Peyton Tyner

I am curious. I visited the exhibit back in 1986 and was very impressed. I was especially taken back by the manequins. They were all based of the same face, but had the deminsions and characteristics of all the first ladies. I toured the exhibit again in later years and the manequins where changed to just generic ones. Now, there are just forms that hold the dresses, with no heads. Are there any plans to put the desiqnated manequins back into their dresses, and create new ones for Barbara Bush through Michelle Obama?

Rick Hainer

How do I find out about a gown that was worn at Washington's ignaugral ball that my Mother donated to this exibit?

Rick Hainer

nancy k

I saw the original display back in the 70s when I was a kid and it was astonishing.. it is something that I will NEVER forget... and it was probably the only time in my life that I will ever see the display as I live far from DC... from the pictures posted on your web site, I can see that the display has been down sized quite a bit and that is really very sad... I understand that it is just temporary and I understand the reason for rotating the dresses but I have to agree with the ladies above--especially for the suggestion of putting pictures on this web-site or even better--do a Flash/ Non Flash Tour version like they did for George Washington's Home ... http://www.mountvernon.org/virtual/index.cfm/ss/2/ that way you could see the dress all the ways around and in a way, everybody would be able to see what i saw as a kid and why it made such an impression on me even after all these years...

just a thought

Betty Warner

As an avid genealogist, I would urge your museum to put photos on your website of each first lady's gown or the items you have for them. It seems everyone is upset at the few number of items in your exhibit. What harm would it be to have photos of the items not available for exhibit? It would also be nice for those who are unable to visit the museum. I have found a photo of Martha Washington's gown, but it would be nice to have each first lady's photos available.

Thank you for your website so that we can offer suggestions.

Joyce Loveless

We visited the museum for the first time yesterday after it reopened and I was also HIGHLY disappointed not to see all the beautiful dresses! Thankfully there was no wait but I agree with the poster above who commented that the WAR sections went on and on and on.

I am happy to hear that the collection will be restored though when the rest of the renovations are complete..

Less WAR more FASHION please....


Wow, can't believe the comments here. I live in the UK, and being a fashion enthusiast i would love to see these historic dresses. Sadly i can't get over to the states for a while.

Tamie Bryan

I have just returned from viewing the First Ladies Exhibit and am also very disappointed with the amount of space, attention to detail and information provided on each object. The line is long and slow to the room. What happened to all the china, gifts to the First Families, toys and other artifacts. Taking my daughters to this exhibit has always been the highlight for our time at the Smithsonian. I feel sorry for other visitors that could not see the amazing exhibit from years past...if you can't display them often in order to preserve them why can't you use modern technology to showcase them?

Megan Smith

Hi Treen,

The current First Ladies exhibition is a temporary show. The Museum's renovation will continue with a major overhaul of the West wing in the next few years, and a new, more permanent First Ladies exhibition will be part of that second stage of the renovation. We'll be using the feedback we get from the current exhibition to help guide us as we plan for the permanent installation.

Thank you for your interest!



I was disappointed with the First Ladies exhibit to the point of being annoyed, and not about the number of dresses displayed. As I recall, the First Ladies section prior to the building remodel was much more extensive with its organization and explanations of things. There was also a better flow to it - you walked out a different door than you went in. Now, it's just a big case with some dresses and a few random objects with no context to anything. It's a small room that goes nowhere, and the doorway jams up because it's the only one for entrance AND exit. Contrast that with the military section that goes and goes and goes for hours ... surely the square footage for the First Ladies didn't need to be cut THAT much.

Is that it? Will there be nothing more? Or is this just the initial outlay for the reopening and more will be opened later? I'd be curious to receive a response to this, either here on the blog or via email.


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