From Yunji de Nies and Sunlen Miller:
Michelle Obama donated her inaugural gown to the Smithsonian Museum of American History today, parting with what she called "one of the most tangible things I have left to remember that day."
The first lady’s gown joins those of many first ladies before her as part of the exhibit “A First Lady’s Debut” with gowns from Jackie Kennedy, Eleanor Roosevelt and Helen Taft, among others. Mrs. Obama said she was “embarrassed over the fuss” being made over her dress. Still, she told a group of design students in the audience that she was honored to be part of the tribute, and noted that, “The detail of each gown –- the fabric, the cut, the color –- tells us something much more about each single First Lady. It’s a visual reminder that we each come from such different backgrounds, from different generations, and from different walks of life.”
Looking back at her gown, she says on that night, she was not focused on what she was wearing, as much as how she was feeling.
“I’ll never forget the moment that I slipped on this beautiful gown,” she said, “I remember how just luscious I felt as the President and I were announced onto the stage for the first of many dances. And I’ll cherish that moment for the rest of my life.”
The First Lady praised designer Jason Wu for his vision and hard work. She recalled Wu’s own story as a Taiwan born immigrant, who began sketching wedding gowns at age 5, and went on to work around the world, before opening his own store just four years ago.
The 27 years-old designer says he found out that the First Lady chose his dress just like everyone else on inauguration day – watching television in awe. In fact, he says was never even told that his dress was being considered.
Wu joked that “to say that she has changed my life is truly an understatement,” adding that this has been the “greatest personal and professional accomplishment” in his life so far.
“What an honor,” he said to the first lady sitting behind him, “thank you for having the courage and the vision to choose a gown made by a young designer who didn’t fit the traditional mold. Thank you for reminding us all that in this country nothing is impossible.”
The first lady said the day was about much more than the dress, but rather about “how, with enough focus and with enough determination, someone in this room could be the next Jason Wu. Someone in this room could be the next Barack Obama. It’s about how the American story is written by real people –- not just names on a page. And it’s about how something you create today –- whether it’s a dress, or a painting, or a story or a song –- can help teach the next generation in a way that nothing else can.”
Mrs. Obama posed with exhibit, which includes the gown, her Jimmy Choo open toe shoes, and diamond jewelry.
“Oh look the jewelry!” she said with a laugh and a wave, “This is what I’ll miss the most. Bye jewelry!”
- Yunji de Nies and Sunlen Miller