For better or worse, Michelle Obama surprised us at the inaugural ball last year by appearing in the now-iconic red gown by Jason Wu—the same designer who made the embellished cream-colored dress she wore to the same event four years earlier. What a First Lady wears to the ultra-exposed inauguration ceremonies is a major decision, which typically involves months of planning and tapping various designers for gown sketches—and that the young Jason Wu (who has since catapulted to fame) was selected twice speaks volumes.
Today, the National Museum of American History displays last year’s gown, a shimmering ruby, full-length halter, in its “First Ladies” exhibit, just in time for the collection’s 100-year anniversary. The addition of the dress, which is on loan from the White House for a year, marks the first time the museum has acquired a second inaugural gown, which are typically reserved for presidential libraries. “There’s such interest in the dress,” Smithsonian curator Lisa Kathleen Graddy told AP, “I thought maybe it would be interesting if we could borrow the dress and do a special limited-time display here so that people would get a chance to see it.”
Of course, no black-tie look is complete without shoes, so the museum also got its hands on the red Jimmy Choo sandals Mrs. Obama wore to the ball. You can see the complete look, along with the dozen-plus gowns of first ladies from years past, through January 2015.
Want more Wu? See the designer’s spring collection at a trunk show at Saks Fifth Avenue on Friday.