With a giant sculpture of the American flag in mid-wave as her backdrop, Melania Trump donated her inaugural gown to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History on Friday.
“It can be a daunting task to choose an outfit that will be mesmerized” — we think she meant to say “memorialized” — “and become part of our nation’s story and forever history,” the first lady said at the museum just hours before the gown’s debut as part of the famed “First Ladies Collection,” a century-old exhibit said to be one of the most popular attractions across all the Smithsonian museums.
Trump added that she hoped the dress, a vanilla silk, off-the-shoulder couture piece created by the French-born designer Hervé Pierre, would be “one of many great beginnings to our family’s history here in Washington D.C.”
Flanked by the museum’s director, John Gray, and the Secretary of the Smithsonian David Skorton, Trump arrived on stage Friday morning in a sleeveless cream sheath, hot pink heels and a long blush overcoat draped over her shoulders.
After thanking the Smithsonian for its work preserving the country’s history and before diving into her prepared remarks, Trump first made sure to shine a light on the gown’s creator.
“While I may be the one on stage, I want to take a moment to introduce you to the person behind my gorgeous couture piece,” said Trump before asking Pierre, dressed in a what looked like a morning suit and sneakers, to stand in the small crowd of about 100 gathered for the ceremony. She called the designer “a true artist and a real professional.”
Trump then retold the gown’s origin story.
“As most of you know, before being elected president my husband was never in politics,” she began, “So you can imagine that after he won we were very busy with all that goes into preparing for a new administration and all the changes that we as a family would be facing.”
“To be honest,” she continued, “what I would wear to the inaugural ball was the last thing on my mind, in fact by the time I got around to thinking about my wardrobe choice poor Hervé was only given two weeks to design and produce this couture piece.”
The duo had never worked together before, but the first lady said she knew of the designer’s “stellar reputation.” She also wanted to work with someone who would “do more than just design a dress.” She wanted a collaborator.
Trump’s inaugural fashion was perhaps unsurprisingly mired in controversy. Before the 2017 inauguration a host of designers, including Sophie Theallet and Naeem Khan, preemptively announced that they would not dress the first lady because of her husband’s politics. Designing and gifting the first lady a gown would be tacit support of the Trump administration, went the logic. Others said they would be happy to dress Trump, framing the issue as a patriotic duty.
In the end she chose to work with Pierre on a ball gown The Washington Post’s fashion critic Robin Givhan called “daring.”
“I have had a passion for design from a very young age,” said Trump, a former fashion model, “and had a very precise idea of what I wanted for such an historic evening.”
When sitting down with the designer to discuss her “vision,” the first lady said that she had a clear mandate. She wanted “modern, sleek, light, unique and unexpected.” The end result was a success, and now one of many permanent emblems of the Trump brand in the nation’s capital.
“The president, Barron and I love living here,” concluded Trump, “and we are so honored to represent this country.”
After her three-minute speech the first lady posed for photos with the museum’s brass and Pierre next to the gown before curators arrived with blue gloves to carefully lift the dress onto a dolly, wheeling it into history.