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Dressing to Impress, for Posterity

Michelle Obama's inaugural ball gown by designer Jason Wu will go to the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History. (Jason Reed/Reuters)

Rushing down to the Smithsonian for a close look at Michelle Obama's inaugural gown? Relax -- it'll take a while.

"It's not going to be there tomorrow," says Lisa Kathleen Graddy, curator of the First Ladies Collection at the National Museum of American History. Obama's ivory Jason Wu dress won't go on display for at least six months; it was a full year before Laura Bush's 2001 red gown was unveiled.

The process begins when Smithsonian Secretary G. Wayne Clough writes a letter formally asking the first lady to donate to the historic collection, which has 21 gowns. (Second-term inaugural dresses usually end up in presidential libraries.)

The dress worn in 1933 by Eleanor Roosevelt to her husband's first swearing-in. (Courtesy of the National Museum of American History)

Then museum officials will meet with her and create a mannequin for the gown, then make repairs as necessary. Notice the president stepping on the dress as they danced? Probably a few rips in the hem.

Jewelry designer Loree Rodkin, who lent the earrings and ring worn with the gown, plans to donate them to the museum, the Chicago Tribune reports.

Graddy also has her eye on the yellow Isabel Toledo ensemble Obama wore earlier in the day. "I would very much like the outfit from the swearing-in ceremony," she tells us. The museum has only one other: Eleanor Roosevelt's lavender velvet dress from 1933.

(AP Photo/Doug Mills)

But one piece of inaugural finery is already available to anyone who wants a copy: Aretha Franklin's love-it-or-hate-it "bow hat." The singer wore the gray-felt-and-Swarovski-crystal topper at the swearing-in -- and the phone at Luke Song's store in Detroit hasn't stopped ringing since. He's already sold almost 1,000 of a $179 version in satin ribbon and plans to launch an entire line in different colors. "I'd be very stupid not to take this opportunity," he told the Wall Street Journal. "It's like a huge gift."

By The Reliable Source  |  January 26, 2009; 1:03 AM ET
Categories:  First Family  
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I LOVE Michelle's style - can't wait to go see the inaugural dress in person, especially the organza beaded flowers that reminded everyone of the bobbles from the grandma's chenille bedspread. Up close, that dress is GORGEOUS!

Posted by: annieb346 | January 26, 2009 10:06 AM | Report abuse

I really want to see this gown up close. Its so gorgeous in the pictures or maybe its the way it flows on Mrs. O's stunning figure but i will be going to see this gown when it is on display.

Posted by: kimwanstat | January 26, 2009 4:18 PM | Report abuse

Her gown looked like one of the old white bedspreads my grandmother had from the 1960's. She could not even dance it it. It was UGLY

Posted by: ked1113 | January 28, 2009 12:17 PM | Report abuse

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