Posted by Edelweiss Patterns on June 10, 2013
The First Ladies’ Gown Exhibit at the Smithsonian, Washington, D.C.
On my recent costume trip to Washington, D.C., I spent some wonderful moments at the National History Museum in my favorite exhibit of all – The First Ladies’ Gown exhibit! Filled with inaugural ball gowns, sumptous dinner dresses, and stately suits, this magnificent collection of garments is one of the loveliest historical costume displays in the entire United States. Each dress tells the story of the time in which a certain First Lady wore it, as well as the style of that particular president’s wife. And whether America was going through hard times or experiencing prosperity, each particular First Lady still managed to procure some beautiful clothes which have carried on the First Families’ legacy.
In an attempt to avoid being excessively verbose, I will let these photographs speak for themselves and just add a small description under each one.
Here is a striking Civil War era gown made from royal purple velvet for Mary Todd Lincoln. While the full skirt is paired here a long sleeved bodice for day wear, it also has a matching evening gown bodice for formal occasions.
Caroline Harrison’s Evening Gown – All I can say about this gown is, “WOW!” What magnificent silk velvet with that luxrious sheen. What glorious silver beading on the metallic silk satin. And what an incredible silhouette! The train, the bustle, the bodice – wow!
Frances Folsom Cleveland (the youngest first lady in American history) purchased this charming 1895 gown from the House of Doucet (Paris).
All of Frances’ gowns were at the absolute height of fashion, and I sincerely wish I could have seen her wedding dress again! (It’s been a number of years since that gown has been on display at the Smithsonian.)
What a refreshingly beautiful evening gown made in robin’s egg blue for Edith Roosevelt! The vertical tucks going up and down the bodice front are so flattering, but the real highlight of this dress is the neckline with its band of tulle puffing and frothy lace ruffles. While living in the White House, Theodore Roosevelt once wrote of how “pretty and dainty” she looked in her “summer dresses“.
Grace Coolidge was one of the first presidents’ wives to wear the “flapper” style of gown (which was most unflattering, if you ask me!). Here a sumptuous silk velvet is fashioned into this 1920s frock with beautiful ruffled tiers.
And of course no First Ladies’ Dress Collection would be complete without some fabulous gown worn by Mamie Eisenhower! Mamie embraced the role of “official fashionista” perhaps more than any other First Lady up to her time, and her sincere fondness for regal ball gowns and the color pink were known all across America. This rose-pink silk damask evening gown was worn to a state dinner at the British Embassy in 1957.
A stunning silk gown encrusted in Austrian crystals, worn by Pat Nixon as her inaugural ball gown in 1969. What incredible beading in the bodice! If I didn’t know better I’d say this was something Norman Hartnell designed for Queen Elizabeth.
Barbara Bush chose one of the most striking inaugural ball gowns I’ve ever seen. In cobalt blue velvet with a sapphire blue taffeta skirt, this dress spelled “elegant” with a capital “E”. This was the very gown which earned her the title of “America’s Most Glamorous Grandmother”.
Finally, I’ll end with the gorgeous red silk crepe and chantilly lace gown which Laura Bush wore to her husband’s inaugural ball in 2001. In person, the gown is just dazzling with sparkling beads and Swarovski crystals, and is my idea of the perfect inaugural ball gown for the twenty-first century.
I hope you all have enjoyed this little trek to the historic First Ladies’ Gown collection! What a national treasure we have in these gowns, and how wonderful to know that whenever we want to, we can head back to our nation’s capital for a stroll through this marvelous exhibit.
Posted by Edelweiss Patterns on May 23, 2013
The last few months I’ve been looking forward to seeing two of my 1950s dresses in print! In early January I received a surprising email from Threads Magazine asking to feature the “cupcake dress” I made in their summer (July) issue – issue #167. It’s not every day you get an opportunity like that, so it was with great care that I wrapped up my 1950s dress and one of my great big, pouffy crinolines, and shipped them off to the Threads’ Magazine office in New England. Threads kept the dress in their studio for a few months, and shortly after I received the package back, I got the best of all news in the mail – it was a complimentary copy of the latest issue of their magazine that featured my dress on pages 82 and 83!
This issue has a detailed article about the dress, and some really lovely photos of it. I am so thankful for this opportunity and that the pictures turned out so well.
For a little bit of history on this dress, I stitched it up as a model garment for Sense & Sensibility Patterns’ classy 1958 Party Dress Pattern which came out last fall. I absolutely loved this gorgeous pattern design, and whipped up a number of frocks from this pattern! (You can read my full blog post from last year on this dress here.) This particular one has a ruched cummerbund and twirly rosette made from contrasting pink faille, and this recent issue of Threads has really nice close-up shots of the details.
Shortly after sewing my aqua blue 1950s dress earlier this year, Vogue Patterns magazine asked if I could re-shoot the dress so they could have some new images to choose from for their upcoming issue (June/July 2013). So for the photos I accessorized with an pearly 1950s hat/headpiece that I picked up at an antique shop, vintage gloves, and a slightly full crinoline underneath.
Vogue Patterns asked me not to post any of these newer pictures online until the issue had been published, but now that it’s out I can share some of them here! (For more details on the construction of this dress, you can read my post here.) The June/July 2013 issue of Vogue Patterns has a picture of this dress on page 8.
So if you happen to pick up the July issue of Threads or the June/July issue of Vogue Patterns, I hope you’ll enjoy the pictures!
Pretty soon I’ll try to share some photos of the First Ladies’ gowns I saw while in Washington, D.C.! Until then, happy sewing!
Posted by Edelweiss Patterns on May 5, 2013
A few weeks ago I shared some initial pictures of the Edwardian gowns I viewed at the Daughters of the American Revolution Museum, so now here’s Part 2 of the gorgeous dresses from their “New Woman” exhibit! This “New Woman Exhibit” focuses on the fashions from the 1890s through the early 19-teens, and portrays how changing society and activities affected the clothing which women wore for both day and evening wear throughout this time in history. This exhibit was exceptionally curated, and I am so thankful that the musem allowed photographs to be taken. (Please note that there are pictures here taken from two separate cameras, so the lighting and coloring may look slightly different from each other. Also, for obvious reasons, the museum asked that no flash be used in pictures.)
The Green Silk Evening Gown
This dress has so much character to it! Originally an 1890s evening gown, the museum explains that this dress would have been “remodeled” in the early 1900s to fit the styles of the time. Between the rich cotton lace and embroidered brocade at the neckline and skirt, this is an absolutely elegant ensemble! Circa 1900
The Pink Ruffled Day Dress
This is my idea of the perfect Edwardian tea gown! Trimmed with yards of tiny ruffles at the skirt hem and featuring the signature “pouter pigeon” silhouette at the bodice, this dress calls to mind an afternoon picnic or tea party that you would see in Anne of Avonlea. The collar and cuffs were made from pink velvet, which is a really lovely addition to the cotton voile! Circa 1900.
Beaded Waist Evening Gown
I was amazed at the tiny rows of beading embroidered onto the bodice waist! This lovely cream silk chiffon gown is lined with silk satin and has amazing cutout details in the skirt that allows the underskirt color to come through. There are lovely lace motifs on the gown and intricate beading at the neckline. Made by Doucet, a renowned Paris couturier. Circa 1900-1905
The Blue Silk and Netting Dress
This stunning cornflower blue silk dress features a square neckline which is filled in with netting lace. The assymetrical details show a definite departure from the more centered and predictable trimming patterns I’ve seen on many dresses from a decade earlier. Notice the curled blue cording which is hand-stitched over the upper bodice, waistband, and skirt. Circa 1910
A Whitework and Insertion Lace “Washdress”
The Edwardian women sure had a different way of looking at laundry! When their gowns changed from the stiff silk bustle gowns of the 1880s to these soft, white gowns with rows of tucks and lace insertion, they were elated that at last they had clothing which could be put in the wash! However, these garments were so incredibly delicate that in comparison with our modern clothing they would be considered “hand wash delicate cycle, do not bleach, lay flat to dry”.
Whatever the case, this “washdress” is absolutely stunning with rows of diagonal pintucks and yards of French valencienne insertion laces. The collar in particular is so breathtaking – rows and rows of dainty lace are joined together and somehow have remained in perfect condition for the last one hundred years. Circa 1909
The 1890s Graduation & Wedding Dress
The DAR Museum’s label of this dress reads, “White, long associated with youth and innocence, and with rites of passage like baptism and marriage, became standard for girls’ graduations from grade schools, high schools, and eventually colleges. This dress was worn by Eva Brawley Dickson in 1894 for her graduation from coeducational Allegheny College in Meadville, Pennsylvania. Later that year she wore it as a wedding dress.” Somehow I imagined that most wedding dresses from that decade would have been dripping with lace, but this dress has an elegant simplicity all its own. Circa 1894
An 1890s Style Turtleneck
Oh my! This dark red turtleneck with the fitted bodice and leg-o-mutton sleeves was just amazing to view in person! It makes our modern day turtleneck sweaters look downright dumpy in comparison. I realize, of course, that this sort of sweater would no longer be considered practical for cold weather attire (how much tissue paper would it take to stuff those sleeves?) ,but nevertheless it’s a very beautiful example of the femininity and care that went into even practical garments such as this one. This reminds me very strongly of a gorgeous cream rib-knit sweater in the Metropolitan Museum’s collection which you can see here.
I do wish that every single costume enthusiast had the opportunity to see this marvelous exhibit at the DAR Museum and study the garments up close! But since that may not be possible, I think the rest of us can content ourselves with popping Anne of Green Gables into the DVD player and taking in a refreshing whiff of lacy frilliness from one hundred years ago.
May you all have a wonderful week, and happy sewing!