With the opening of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute’s annual fashion exhibition coming up next week (accompanied, of course, by the opening celebration Gala on Monday), May means fashion. To add to this month’s conversation on fashion and its place in society, we are excited to showcase the delightful government publication The Dresses of the First Ladies of the White House by Margaret Brown Klapthor.
Published in 1952 by the Smithsonian Institution, this book contains images of dresses worn by First Ladies, from Martha Dandridge Curtis Washington to Anna Eleanor Roosevelt, lovingly displayed on a plaster figure with the appropriate accessories, coiffure and posture of the woman who wore them.
Detailed descriptions of each dress, as well as a portrait and brief biographical sketch of each woman, are also included. The gowns, which belong to a collection of the United States National Museum, “represent the changes in fashions in this country from the administration of President George Washington through the administration of President Franklin D. Roosevelt” as Klapthor says in her introduction.
Klapthor authored two supplements to this title, The Gown of Mrs. Dwight D. Eisenhower (1958) and The Gown of Mrs. John F. Kennedy (1963), to extend her survey of fashion through the Kennedy administration.
To view the gown of your favorite First Lady, visit the Government Information department at Ellis Library.
All images from Dresses of the First Ladies of the White House, by Margaret B. Klapthor, 1952.