Tuesday, August 2, 2011
Dress of the Day - July 5, 2011
Dress of the Day: Dolley Madison portrait by Gilbert Stuart (1804). In honor of July 4th, a tribute to a great American and definer of style. Madison developed the public role of First Lady, and was a skilled and popular hostess. She redecorated the White House, hosted the first Inaugural Ball, and entertained with such grace that she put visiting dignataries at ease, making them disposed to productive political discussion. During the War of 1812, when the British were about to burn Washington, Dolley Madison refused to evacuate the White House until she had made sure that the portrait of George Washington would be safe.
Dolley was raised a Quaker, and in her first marriage to a fellow Quaker she wore subdued clothing in dark colors. When she married James Madison, she took on his Episcopalian faith, casting off her somber clothing for colorful, fashionable gowns. This portrait shows her in a white, Neoclassical gown in the Empire style that was in vogue in the beginning of the 19th century. As First Lady, Madison dressed elegantly yet simply. She considered all Americans to be her constituents, and inspired respect and admiration for the Presidency.