clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Eight Things to Know About MObama's New Smithsonian Display

Images: Adele Chapin/Racked DC
Images: Adele Chapin/Racked DC

Racked is no longer publishing. Thank you to everyone who read our work over the years. The archives will remain available here; for new stories, head over to Vox.com, where our staff is covering consumer culture for The Goods by Vox. You can also see what we’re up to by signing up here.

Michelle Obama's second inaugural ball gown makes its debut today at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History. The red chiffon Jason Wu gown will be on display at the First Ladies exhibit for only one year, since it is on a temporary loan from the White House. Second inaugural gowns are usually displayed at presidential libraries instead of the Smithsonian, but the museum hopes that this public viewing will start a new tradition.

Want to know what to expect before you go? Smithsonian political history curator Lisa Kathleen Graddy chatted with Racked DC about the ruby red dress and its significance.

1. The gown's velvet details look much different in person than on television. The velvet pattern of the dress really pops. "You can get up close and personal and think about what it would feel like to wear this," said Graddy.

2. Obama's first inaugural dress, the fairy-tale floaty white Jason Wu, is currently in storage for conservation during the year that the second inaugural dress will be displayed. However, there is a large poster of Obama wearing the white dress positioned next to the red gown.

3. The halter dress features some sparkle with a diamond-embellished ring designed by Kimberly McDonald.

4. As opposed to the first inaugural dress, which Wu said was meant to symbolize hope, this is definitely a party dress. "This one seems to be more of a celebratory dress," said Graddy.

5. Will Jason Wu visit D.C. to see his second inaugural gown at the Smithsonian? "I hope so," said Graddy. Both Michelle Obama and Jason Wu attended the gown presentation for the first dress when it was gifted to the Smithsonian, and Wu spoke about his experience while designing for the inauguration. That presentation was taped and is on loop on a television in the First Ladies exhibit.

6. Mamie Eisenhower is another First Lady in recent memory who had the same designer create both of her inaugural gowns, said Grady.

7. Michelle Obama's Jimmy Choos had a barely-there kitten heel compared to her shoes at the first inauguration.

8. It's been about a year since the First Lady wore the dress at the 2013 inauguration, and the debut of the gown coincides with both the museum's 50th anniversary and the centennial anniversary of the First Ladies exhibit. The timing also happens to coincides with the First Lady's upcoming 50th birthday.


Smithsonian curator Lisa Kathleen Graddy


· See Michelle Obama's Red Jason Wu Inaugural Gown In Person [Racked]
· 360 Degrees of Michelle Obama's Jason Wu Inauguration Gown [Racked]
· NAMH First Ladies exhibit [Official Site]

National Museum of American History

14th Street and Constitution Avenue, NW Washington, D.C., 20001