First Lady Melania Trump started her weekend with a little wardrobe preening by presenting her Hervé Pierre-designed inaugural gown to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History Friday morning.
The vanilla silk crepe off-the-shoulder gown with a slit skirt and ruffled accent trim from neckline to hem is now displayed prominently in the First Ladies exhibition. The designer didn’t only join FLOTUS for the private event, he traveled to the nation’s capital to make sure that the gown was just right.
Free and open to the public, the Smithsonian attracted about 21 million visitors last year to its 19 museums, with the Museum of American History attracting about 4.5 million visitors annually. The nearly 100-year-old First Ladies Collection features more than 24 dresses including ones from Jacqueline Kennedy, Laura Bush, Michelle Obama, Mary Lincoln, Dolley Madison and Edith Roosevelt.
Trump told guests, “Today is such an honor as I dedicate my inaugural couture piece to the First Ladies exhibit at the National Museum of American History. In addition to celebrating fashion, which is something I have loved since I was a small child, there is no better way to memorialize such a special evening, and new chapter in the life of our family.”
The First Ladies gowns are among the Smithsonian’s “must-see destination exhibitions,” along with The Spirit of St. Louis, the Hope diamond (weighing in at 45.52 carats), the dinosaurs, Julia Child’s kitchen and Judy Garland’s ruby slippers for her role as Dorothy in the 1939 film “The Wizard of Oz.” “It’s one of the reasons people come to the museum at all,” said the Smithsonian’s secretary David Skorton, M.D., adding the museum attracted about 4.5 million visitors last year.
In February while touring the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African-American History and Culture with Trump, Sara Netanyahu and the museum’s director Lonnie Bunch, Skorton asked FLOTUS about donating her inaugural gown and she graciously and enthusiastically agreed, he said.
Thirty years after he first started in fashion, working at Balmain, Pierre recalled how he has drafted thousands of sketches that beautiful women wore for different occasions. “But if you Google my name, this is the one you will see,” he said in a recent interview. “If someone had told me last year that one of my dresses would have been in the Smithsonian Museum, I would have said, ‘Did you have too many vodka tonics at lunch?'”
Guests at Friday’s unveiling saw the First Lady and Pierre together for the first time publicly. He did not suit her up for the occasion though. Pierre explained, “We thought about it but decided, ‘No, that’s a bad idea.’ At one point, you have to calm down. That would be silly.” The designer, however, helped her choose an outfit — an ivory Dolce & Gabbana dress with dark pink Manolo Blahnik heels.
Trump’s dress is now part of a collection of 26 gowns and 150 memorabilia items such as china from the White House and other personal possessions that are part of a First Ladies Materials collection that started at the museum in 1912, and the First Ladies exhibition debuted in 1914. As for whether the controversy that has surrounded the Trump administration may cause the feedback about the inaugural dress to be as spirited, Skorton said, “I would never put myself forward as a good predictor. But I believe this is a continuation of a very long tradition that goes back to Martha Washington so I’m hoping that all of us can view this as a continuation of a tradition that brings a lot of people to the National Museum of American History.”