Jun 28, 2022
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New virtual fashion exhibit highlights influential designers, seamstresses for first ladies

Jun 28, 2022

The White House Historical Association announced on Monday a new virtual fashion exhibit highlighting overlooked designers and seamstresses for first ladies. 

Mrs. Lincoln’s Plaid Gown by Elizabeth Keckley. - The White House Historical Association

Dubbed 'Glamour and Innovation: The Women Behind the Seams of Fashion at the White House', the exhibit will cover more than a hundred years in fashion history, through a mix of archival photography, portraits, biographies, and press clippings. 

It explores the work of seamstresses, designers, and couturiers responsible for iconic first ladies' fashions including eight entrepreneurial women who forged ahead despite racial discrimination. It begins with Elizabeth Keckley, Mary Lincoln's dressmaker who was born enslaved, through to Mary Matise, who designed Rosalynn Carter's 1977 inaugural gown.

The exhibit also explores how American designs could rival Parisian fashion, and how they were designed across the aisle for first ladies of both parties.

The exhibit is the result of an inaugural academic partnership with NYU, which began in January and will continue in 2023, with the next fellow chosen this fall through a competitive application process.

It was envisioned, researched and built by the Association's first Digital Exhibit fellow, MA/MS Costume Studies student Maegan Jenkins, in collaboration with the Association's David M. Rubenstein National Center for White House History's Digital Library team.

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