Michelle Obama's 2013 inaugural gown to go on display at Smithsonian

Tribune reporter

WASHINGTON — Museum visitors can glimpse Michelle Obama's sweeping, ruby-red chiffon gown from the 2013 inauguration beginning Tuesday, but designer Jason Wu's white, one-shouldered dress worn by the first lady at the previous inauguration will be temporarily under wraps.

The red gown, which has velvet touches and a distinctive cross-halter strap neckline, goes on display at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History.

It's not common for a first lady's gown from a second inauguration to go on exhibit in Washington, since recent tradition has these dresses given to presidential libraries, said Lauren Meegan, a public affairs assistant at the museum.

"It's absolutely stunning," she said of the dress, which will be at the center of the museum's popular exhibition "The First Ladies."

The Taiwan-born Wu was 26 when he rocketed to international renown by being Obama's pick as designer for her white gown for the 2009 inaugural balls.

In March 2010, Obama formally presented the dress, embellished with organza flowers and Swarovski crystals, to the museum as a gift, as her predecessors have.

"The dress I donated today … is a masterpiece," she said then. "It's simple, it's elegant and it comes from the brilliant mind of someone who is living the American Dream."

The one-year loan of the red gown coincides with the centennial of the first ladies exhibit, which in 1914 was the first Smithsonian display to prominently feature women.

For 50 years, the exhibit has been at the National Museum of American History, which opened in 1964.

kskiba@tribune.com | Twitter: @KatherineSkiba

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