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Tuesday
Mar092010

A Smithsonian Debut

Images by Mark Wilson / Getty Images

This morning the first lady will donate her fabulous, frothy Jason Wu inaugural gown to the Smithsonian National Museum of American History. Mrs. O's inaugural gown will be part of a new gallery, "A First Lady's Debut," which will showcase 11 dresses worn by first ladies. Mrs. O will be joined by designer Jason Wu and a group of design students.

Update #1: Today brings us not just one fabulous dress, but two! For the Smithsonian event, Mrs. O wore a dress from another up-and-coming designer, Prabal Gurung, who was recently highlighted on this blog, here. The dress is a black and white brush painted rose silk twill gazar hand draped off-the-shoulder design from Mr. Gurung's Spring 2010 collection. For a more detailed look, see below.

P.S. How fabulous does Marian Robinson look?

Image by Jewel Samad / Getty Images

Update #2: The first lady's full and entirely inspiring remarks:

MRS. OBAMA:  Thank you, everyone.  Thanks so much.

Well, clearly, it’s a pleasure and an honor to be here with all of you today.

Let me begin by thanking Secretary Clough for that generous introduction.  I want to thank him and his wife Anne for their dedication to the mission of the Smithsonian.

And I want to thank our hosts from the National Museum of American History -– Dr. Brent Glass and John Rogers.  Thank you for making these museums such wonderful places for people of all ages to learn and to explore.

And I have to also do my part in recognizing our very special guests, the students and the teachers from Huntington High School, who made the trip all the way from New York to be here.  You all please stand so we can see you.  (Applause.)  Now, there’s a special reason why I invited these students here.  They sent me this book of beautifully designed inaugural gowns of their own creations, and I had so much fun looking through all the designs.  You all are obviously a very talented and beautiful and handsome group of people.  And I am so pleased to be able to share this special day with you.  You make us proud.  And thank you for the gifts.

And, finally, I also want to thank all the board members, the staff, the supporters of these museums, all of you, for the work that you do every day, and for being here and sharing this moment with me, as well.

So, here we are.  It’s the dress.  (Laughter.)  And I have to say, to be honest, I am very honored and very humbled, but I have to say that I’m also a little embarrassed by all the fuss being made over my dress.  Like many of you, I’m not used to people wanting to put things I’ve worn on display.  (Laughter.)  So, all of this is a little odd, so forgive me.

But, at the same time, I truly recognize the significance of this day.  This gown –- and all of the items that we’ll see in this wonderful exhibit –- help us connect with a moment in history in a very real way.

When we look at the gown that Jackie Kennedy wore 50 years ago, or the one that Mary Todd Lincoln wore more than a hundred years before that, it really takes us beyond the history books and the photographs, and it helps us understand that history is really made by real live people.

The detail of each gown –- the fabric, the cut, the color –- tells us something much more about each single First Lady.  It’s a visual reminder that we each come from such different backgrounds, from different generations, and from different walks of life.

Each gown places us right in the moment and makes us wonder about the intimate details of that evening, like how did she feel in the dress?   Did her feet hurt in those shoes?  (Laughter.)  How many times did her husband step on that train?  (Laughter.)  But, more importantly, these gowns and this exhibit uniquely define a moment in our American history.

When I look at my gown –- which I, in fact, have not seen since the day that I took it off –- memories of that moment truly come rushing back.  I remember that it was freezing cold in Washington.  I know we all remember that.  Yet, despite the frigid temperatures, hundreds of thousands of people flooded the Mall.  Nothing was going to stop them from being part of history.

That day was so hectic for us.  And I remember the inaugural parade and how the President and I stood and we waved until every last band walked by.

Then we only had less than an hour -- ladies, if you can believe that -- (laughter) -- all of my friends left us in the stands, by the way.  (Laughter.)  “See ya, good luck!”  (Laughter.)  I was like, “Yeah, thanks.”  (Laughter.)  “We have to get ready for the ball.”  (Laughter.)  Like, “Yeah, so do I.”  (Laughter.)  So at the time I wasn’t really focused on what I was wearing that evening -– I was really just trying to stay warm.

But I’ll never forget the moment that I slipped on this beautiful gown.  I remember how just luscious I felt as the President and I were announced onto the stage for the first of many dances.  And I’ll cherish that moment for the rest of my life.

And now that the crowds are gone, and the Mall is silent, and our family has settled into our new home, the White house, this gown is one of the most tangible things I have left to remember that day.  And that’s why it will always hold a special place in my heart.

And today, when I look at the dress, I remember all of the incredible people that we met along our journey and on that day, and how warmly -- welcome they received us.

I remember the joy on the faces of so many young people who devoted so much time to getting us to that point.

I remember the wonderful letters we received from folks who were there and others who watched the event from home; people who told us about how much that day meant for them and their families -- letters from octogenarians who told us how they never thought they’d live to see the day.

I remember all the men and women who worked so hard and so long to make sure that every single detail was just perfect.

And I remember the time we shared with Americans from every corner of this nation.

And one of the people who made that day possible is the creator of this beautiful gown, Jason Wu, a young man who, not so long ago, was just an aspiring designer like many of you students here.  When Jason was just five years old, growing up in Taiwan, his parents would take him to the bridal shops so that he could sketch the gowns in the windows.  He started making clothes for dolls when he was 16, and after studying under some of the best designers in the world, he opened his own shop four years ago with the money he had saved.

And Jason’s dress, as you can see -- this gown is a masterpiece.  It is simple, it’s elegant, and it comes from this brilliant young mind, someone who is living the American Dream.

The countless hours that you can see that he spent sewing this piece made my night even more special, and now I am proud that millions of visitors will be able to see just how talented this young man is.

Thank you, Jason.  Thank you for your vision and for your hard work, because, in the end of the day, today is about much more than this gown.  It’s also about how, with enough focus and with enough determination, someone in this room could be the next Jason Wu.  Someone in this room could be the next Barack Obama.  It’s about how the American story is written by real people –- not just names on a page.  And it’s about how something you create today –- whether it’s a dress, or a painting, or a story or a song –- can help teach the next generation in a way that nothing else can.

Thank you all so much.  (Applause.)

Update #3: A fabulous behind-the-scenes video from the Smithsonian:

Reader Comments (71)

I really don't like her inaugural gown . It looks like more wedding gown instead.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010 at 11:58 AM | Registered CommenterNic John

The dress didn't read on tv or in print. But her gown is still better than the majority of those in the exhibition. None of the First Ladies have really ever had a standout inaugural gown. In fact, I've found that the dress for the second inaugural is usually better than the first. Both Laura Bush and Hillary looked better the second time around. I suspect the same will be true for Mrs. O.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010 at 12:01 PM | Unregistered CommenterTracy

I think the theme for the her first inaugural gown...was "Wedding style"...I don't care for the dress but its part of history...Michelle gown will forever be part of American Political History...no matter how we really feel about it.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010 at 12:06 PM | Unregistered Commentertia

Jason Wu is also making history as the first person of color to be joining the inaugural gown collection. I think he maybe the first minority to design a inaugural gown for a First Lady...good work Jason.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010 at 12:09 PM | Unregistered Commentertia

Thanks for that bit of trivia, tia.

Congratulations, Jason! You did an amazing job with Mrs. O's first inaugural dress. She looked amazing in it.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010 at 12:14 PM | Registered Commentermarabout40

Was thing event broadcast anywhere? CNN had it scheduled to stream on its website, but it never appeared.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010 at 12:15 PM | Registered CommenterAppleGirl

Would you count Oscar de la Renta as a person of color? He's Dominican and Puerto Rican, and he designed Hillary Clinton's second inaugural gown and Laura Bush's second inaugural gown.

I wasn't a fan of this dress, either, but it was a nice gesture to wear one of the colors of the American flag.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010 at 12:19 PM | Registered CommenterHattie Carnegie

LOVE WHAT MRS OBAMA IS WEARRING AND AM SURE SHE DIDNT WEAR THIS DRESS BEFORE LOVE HER SHOES. NOT CRAZY ABOUT WHAT MRS OBAMA WEAR FOR AFTER MR OBAMA GOT SWEARD IN LOVE HER WHITE SANDLE THAT SHE WEAR I BET HER FEET WAS KILLING HER IT WAS A LONG DAY FOR ALL OF THEM.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010 at 12:21 PM | Unregistered Commentermichelle

Does not Oscar de la Renta considered himself to be White?!..never mind... Jason Wu is still the First "Asian" designer of an American inaugural gown. He is also the youngest designer in the collection. That's a lot of first for this young man...lol

Tuesday, March 9, 2010 at 12:28 PM | Unregistered Commentertia

omg michelle is wearing prabal gurung and looks stunning!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010 at 12:34 PM | Unregistered Commenterpdiddy

I LOVED the dress, it was so different and young. I cannot wait to see what she will wear for the 2013 Inagural.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010 at 12:37 PM | Unregistered CommenterMia Monte

The Smithsonian has a video about the First Ladies collection on their YouTube channel:
http://www.youtube.com/user/smithsonianvideos

Discussion on Mrs. Obama's dress starts around 1:58. It shows some beautiful close-up detail of the dress too.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010 at 12:42 PM | Unregistered CommenterDudette

I'm guessing that the comments listed before mine were made before the pics of Mrs. O in her stunning white sheath were posted. Because that's something to comment on, the debut of this new dress. She is hitting it out of the park lately!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010 at 12:49 PM | Unregistered CommenterErin

I loved Mrs. O gown and thought she carried it well. I also love the dres she wore today. Kudos to Jason Wu, he has the best model in Mrs. O.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010 at 12:53 PM | Unregistered CommenterNicole

Congrats to Mr. Wu!! I love the sheath Michelle is wearing....yay it is spring so she can wear spring colors and show her arms without the etiquette police coming after her! After I get my MO arms I'm going to buy a nice stylish sheath.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010 at 1:05 PM | Unregistered CommenterThat other Mimi

A full length picture of her Prabal Gurung dress appears here as she stands with Jason Wu at the Smithsonian donation event: http://www.daylife.com/photo/0d4b7M041SdsT?q=obama

Love it, love it, love it!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010 at 1:11 PM | Unregistered CommenterDudette

One more of picture of Mrs. O in the Prabal Gurung dress with First Mother-In-Law, Mrs. Robinson looking on: http://www.daylife.com/photo/02I0gWY5CjaUq?q=obama

Btw, Mrs. Robinson's dress is lovely as well. I guess stylishness runs in the family.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010 at 1:16 PM | Unregistered CommenterDudette

There are more pics on yahoo. Mrs. O looks amazing! Her hair and makeup are flawless and this dress is outstanding. There's no much more going on with the dress. Amazing.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010 at 1:22 PM | Unregistered CommenterTracy

MS O CONGULATIONS ON GOING INTO HISTORY. I AM SO PROUD TO HAVE SEEN THIS HAPPEN
IN OUR HISTORY.MRS.. ROBINSON LOOKED SO PROUD STANDING AT HER DAUGHTERS SIDE.
JASON WU LOOKED SO PROUD I AM VERY HAPPY FOR HIM.
PD DUBETTE THAT YOU FOR THE VIDEO.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010 at 1:23 PM | Unregistered CommenterCMB

Amazing. I as just in DC and saw a bit of that exhibition- would love to go back and see this dress!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010 at 1:37 PM | Unregistered CommenterJaime @ La vie...J'aime

This dress is to die for. I love the structural details! The back is just amazing! This style so suits her. Structure should be her motto. She looks incredible.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010 at 1:53 PM | Unregistered CommenterTracy

congratulations to Prabal Gurung.your wish to dress the first lady just come true.i hope he gives u his toughts about it Mrs.O.
can i make a polite sugestion? i don't want to appear like i'm patronizing you or telling you how to run your blog, but can you change the 2nd picture (i know you pay for every picture) and put instead the picture of the first lady and her mom where she is waving her inaugural dress good bye. i think the fact that she brings her mom to witness this moment must mean a lot to her.just a polite suggestion!

can't wait for Prabal Gurung reaction.i bet he is in heaven right now.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010 at 2:13 PM | Registered Commenterchrystelle

Thanks crystelle! Somehow I deleted the entire post in the midst of editing. I had to begin again, and updated with a photo that includes Marian Robinson.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010 at 2:44 PM | Registered CommenterMrs. T

You know, I would love to meet Mrs. Robinson. I'd love to get into her head and find out how she feels as the mother of Michelle Obama. It must be so exciting yet she does not seem to be too impressed, which seems to create a wonderful balance. When she looks back over the years, did she ever imagine that she would be living in the White House. What did she do to raise a lady like MO. What did she think of Barack Obama when she first met him? I have lots of thoughts and questions, she seems so interesting and looks lovely beside her daughter.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010 at 2:50 PM | Registered Commenterdenisegirl

thank you Mrs.T. i hope Prabal Gurung contacts you soon.we were introduced to him by your blog.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010 at 2:57 PM | Registered Commenterchrystelle

@Chrystelle... he is delighted and he gave a shout out to this blog:
http://twitter.com/prabalgurung

Tuesday, March 9, 2010 at 3:20 PM | Registered CommenterYOLA

Beautiful speech, beautiful new dress, beautiful Inauguration dress, beautiful event. Mrs Robinson looks very elegant. How lovely for everyone in attendance!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010 at 3:56 PM | Registered Commentermeta

Looking at all the pictures of the FLOTUS online......it appears all this dress needed was to be taken up a few inches under the waistband so that when she bent over the unfortunate "pouch" affect wouldn't happen. All the pictures where she is standing straight with her shoulders back look fine. But when she bends forward? Just plain old poor fit. Such a shame.

Let me second how nice her mom looks. What a proud moment for her!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010 at 3:57 PM | Unregistered Commentercanyongal

NYLON ANY VIDEO YET?

Tuesday, March 9, 2010 at 4:20 PM | Unregistered CommenterCMB

Wow you can definitely tell that Michelle inherited her great legs from her mother! Marian
always looks so cute whenever she is shown in a picture.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010 at 4:48 PM | Registered Commenterbabs

I hear you, canyongal, but at the end of the day, she looks great, the dress is beautiful. She doesn't have to be perfect at all times, in all shots, in all positions, all of the time. Let's not nit-pick her and expect that level of perfection from her...it's unfair a little.

Anyway, I always felt like the inauguration gown gave off a fairy-tale feeling for the evening, and I loved it.

I love that she mentioned how long she had to get ready. I remember watching much of the parade, and since Sen. Kennedy and Byrd had medical emergencies earlier in the day, the entire program of events was pushed back, so they were late to everything, from the parade on down. They left the parade after dark, but they stayed the whole time for every one of the marching bands, even though they had no time to get read for the balls. I have a feeling Mrs. O probably had a different hairstyle in mind, but didn't have time. That's just a feeling I have. Small things like the length of her dress, etc., could have been caught if she had a normal amount of time, but alas, life doesn't always go as planned! She's such a trooper because if I only had less than an hour to get ready for inaugural balls, I would have had a fit and you would have known something was wrong with me!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010 at 5:25 PM | Registered CommenterIVA

Love Mrs. O.'s shoes. The dress? Not so much. Don't care for the hemline at all. On the whole, the dress does not fit well.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010 at 5:34 PM | Unregistered CommenterChristen

I agree, IVA, but she even looks a little uncomfortable herself in the third picture posted here where it's really pouching. Kind of an odd neckline, too, with a slightly asymmetrical look: the one shoulder strap is larger than the other. The hemline goes up and down for "balance", revealing the second layer underneath, which isn't too bad. Not my overall favorite look on her. Honestly, if this came down the carpet on Project Runway I believe it might be picked apart for poor construction and fit. It's all in the eye of the beholder!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010 at 5:41 PM | Unregistered Commentercanyongal

ITA Iva just seems like such a nitpick, the dress is a win to me. Why such an overwhelming need to fit the First Lady in a perfect box? Some people just believe in BREATHING and that is the great thing about this first lady she BREATHES.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010 at 5:58 PM | Unregistered CommenterThatOtherMimi

tears @ the speech...just wonderful...I'm just overwhelmed...THIS DRESS IS JUST TOO HAWT...ON OUR FLOTUS--I MEAN THE SHEATH DRESS....SUPER SEXCEE AN CUTE....

Tuesday, March 9, 2010 at 6:01 PM | Unregistered Commenteremily

Another great day for the history books! Simply fabulous!

I am so very proud of our FLOTUS, Michelle Obama. I am extremely happy for Jason Wu and do hope that he has an outstanding career. For me, I think that he created an outstanding INAUGURAL GOWN for Mrs. Obama. At no time did I view it as a WEDDING GOWN. I love this gpwn and think that she looked fabulous wearing it. The material, workmanship and the design were simply perfect for her and this event.

Mrs. Robinson must be filled with pride for her wonderful daughter. I know that I am extremely proud of her and I only know her from afar. If I had a daughter, I would want one very much like this young FLOTUS.

The speech was stellar. Although she spoke about herself and the events of the day, Mrs. Obama brought Jason Wu to the forefront and by telling his story, she gave inspiration to the young high school designers. In addition, I loved how she explained how the first ladies gowns can be used as primary sources in the teaching and understanding of history. Outstanding!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010 at 6:45 PM | Unregistered Commenterbusbus

I have always been a fan of this gown. She looked like a vision of heaven in this dress. As for the dress that she has on today I love it, just another notification that spring is coming. It looks so crisp, fresh and clean. Mrs. Robinson looks adorable as well I love her little black dress with matching sweater.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010 at 6:48 PM | Registered CommenterAshley Williams

Mrs. O looks fabulous! What an awesome and refreshing dress design. And look, no belt needed! Bravo!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010 at 7:21 PM | Registered CommenterStrong Foru

the dress looks nice in the display - given some of her other choices, I am not a huge fan of the dress. loved the color and all the embellishments, but did not feel the cut really flattered her figure.

I have to say, I was shocked to see that she also donated the diamond jewlrey she wore. I can see the gown and shoes (which she obviously could not wear again). I am curious of that jewlrey is donated to the first lady to wear to the inauguration, or if they purchase everything themselves.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010 at 7:22 PM | Unregistered CommenterMike

@denisegirl there was a great article in Essence magazine about a year or so ago that answered all of your questions. Mrs. O and her mother were featured on the magazine cover.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010 at 7:22 PM | Registered CommenterStrong Foru

Hahahaha,Too Funny CMB, I came here hoping somebody would have already found some, but oh well. So, I went searching for you and me ;-) I only found a short video.

http://abcnews.go.com/WN/michelle-obama-donates-inaugural-gown-smithsonian-institution/story?id=10055890

I think the dress she is wearing today is lovely and I totally agree with you IVA.

Canyongal, I don't think she looks uncomfortable in the third pic. I think that shot was in the middle of her getting up to speak and when you say pouching you mean that one rumple a lil bit under her stomach because the top looks like its made with all that rouching (that is what it is called right?) But you are right, it is definitely all in the eye of the beholder.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010 at 7:29 PM | Registered CommenterNyon

If you link to the Prabal Gurung link above, you can get to his Spring 2010 collection and see this dress on the model. It is even more drape-y and "pouched" on the model. I think this fabric is naturally supposed to fit this way. I think Michelle looks comfortable in it. I then think of Katherine Bigelow's dress at the Oscar's. She is even older than Michelle but super skinny, but her dress was SO tight with not a wrinkle or a rumple in sight,, , and I thought she looked extremely stiff and uncomfortable, and just not good at all.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010 at 7:39 PM | Registered Commenterbabs

This speech really is moviing. It must've been a thrill for the students from New York to be part of this special occassion, and really a part of history. Jason Wu should be so proud of himself for this accomplishment as this was no ordinary feat.
I've always adored The Inaugural Gown. It had the dreamy, magical, fairytale-like quality to it that would make you feel extra special and judging by her comments, FLOTUS felt it.
I like the way that our Michelle has her own mind, is her own woman in the way she does things. If I were a betting woman, I would've put my money on her wearring a Jason Wu dress for today's event. It would be so predictable, but I like how she's always cognizant of recognizing the talents of others as well. It's not showing a lack of loyalty but rather displaying an appreciation of creativity.Such a class act. I like this dress, as someone said earlier, structural dresses really look good on her. There a tons of structure in mainstream clothing today. This could work well for a lot of us if that's your style!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010 at 7:59 PM | Registered CommenterCharlene in Detroit

Lovely dress and pictures. I was one of those who really loved the inaugural ball dress. it had an air of innocence and coupled with that iconic photograph of the First couple riding in the golf cart, they looked like a pair of lovebirds gearing up for the prom. It was a magical night even with the President tripping over the train. Perfection would have rendered the event hardly memorable.

Also Pete Souza posted additional pictures from the Governor's ball, and I must say, that the First Lady was truly ravishing, as in the following pic.:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/whitehouse/4420741924/sizes/l/in/set-72157623268813283/

and this one of her dancing with the President. So funny, and notice the lady behind her with the stiff face::
http://www.flickr.com/photos/whitehouse/4420741916/sizes/l/in/set-72157623268813283/

Tuesday, March 9, 2010 at 8:00 PM | Unregistered Commenterzizi

I could comment on the dress, but those remarks were more beautiful than anything I've ever seen her wear. That was from the heart and I love how personable it was. Because I too was wondering about her feet :D

Tuesday, March 9, 2010 at 8:49 PM | Unregistered Commentero'Coutoure

Mrs. T I'm on the lookout for the second dress. I see the video on the WH website. And from what I can see it is smoking!!! One of the most electrifying blues I've seen in a while.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010 at 9:00 PM | Unregistered Commentero'Coutoure

The dress looks like one of the chenille bedspreads my grandmother had on her bed in the 1960's.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010 at 9:05 PM | Unregistered CommenterAlyse

what an amazing speech ♥

Tuesday, March 9, 2010 at 9:49 PM | Unregistered CommenterTatiana

Who is Nylon??

Tuesday, March 9, 2010 at 11:16 PM | Unregistered Commenterdasie

And now Mrs. Obama wears a dress designed by a young designer from a tiny Himalyan third world country Nepal! I mean who would have thunk that one day the first lady of the USA will have ties to a tiny nation of Nepal through a designer!! Prabal we are so proud of you and we're so thankful to Mrs. Obama for wearing Prabal Gurung's dress. She looks very refreshing!!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010 at 11:33 PM | Unregistered CommenterRashmi

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