Origins of the First Ladies Collection


Early in the 20th century, two women collaborated to develop a collection of historic costumes, focusing on "costumes of the ladies of the White House." Washington society leader Cassie Myers Julian-James and Rose Gouverneur Hoes, a descendant of President James Monroe, drew on their contacts with the families and friends of former first ladies. By 1914, they had assembled a collection of fifteen gowns. The press described the exhibition of the gowns as artistic and aesthetic as well as historical. Shaped by the Progressive Era impulse toward "uplift," the exhibition aimed partly to display and teach good taste. In the 1920s, one visitor wrote that the dresses educated the public on a "true American style" of dress.


Smithsonian National Museum of American History