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The Smithsonian reveals the glamorous wardrobe secrets of America’s first ladies

Mary Todd Lincoln had the misfortune of being an ambitious woman at a time when she was expected to be mere adornment – and that made her miserable. The story recalls that the first lady was brooding, possibly due to an undiagnosed and highly speculated mental illness (the way she was criticized by the press certainly didn’t help). So this unhappy woman who lived over 150 years ago did what a lot of modern women do when they’re sad: she shopped.

“Frustrated with her own goals, married to a man who was able to take her to where she wanted to go – the ultimate seat of power – but still unhappy, Mrs. Lincoln put a lot of energy into buying jewelry and having dresses. done, ”Gwendolyn DuBois Shaw, senior historian at the National Portrait Gallery, told The Daily Beast. “She would go to her seamstress, Elizabeth Keckley, and order 15 dresses at a time. It would take Keckley months to make them all.

One of these pieces, a rose pink capelet with black lace details at the neck, is part of “Every Eye Is Upon Me: First Ladies of the United States,” a new exhibition at the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery. The show is the museum’s very first attempt to center the stories of presidents’ wives. It opened in DC and online this week, and explores the lives of everyone from Martha Washington to Melania Trump to portraiture, as well as some clothing.

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