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Melania Trump Donates Gown

First lady Melania Trump's inaugural gown - long white gown with a red tie

Hervé Pierre in collaboration with Melania Trump, First Lady Melania Trump’s inaugural ball gown, 2017. Courtesy National Museum of American History.

Continuing a century-old tradition, first lady Melania Trump donated her 2017 inaugural ball gown to the National Museum of American History in October 2017. The couture vanilla silk crepe gown with claret ribbon around the waist—a collaboration by Trump and French-American designer Herv­é Pierre—joins 26 other gowns and more than 160 objects in the popular museum exhibition The First Ladies.

The original First Ladies exhibition opened in 1914 and was the first Smithsonian display to prominently feature women. Today, the exhibition explores the changing roles of the first lady and American women during the past 200 years, providing a window into how societal norms and expectations shift.

Among the dresses on view are Grace Coolidge's flapper-style evening gown, a yellow silk gown worn by Jackie Kennedy to a 1961 state dinner, and Eleanor Roosevelt's slate blue crepe gown, which she wore to the 1933 inaugural ball.

"The current version of the exhibition ... displays inaugural gowns to talk about the incoming first ladies' plans for their tenure and their accomplishments in office," said Lisa Kathleen Graddy, a curator of the National Museum of American History's women's political history and first ladies collections. "It focuses on their impact on the evolving position as well as their political roles and the political status of contemporary women. And it uses dresses, evening gowns and suits to look at the public interest in first ladies' fashions and how first ladies have responded to that interest."

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