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Mary Lincoln (1861-1865) This outfit, believed to
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Mary Lincoln (1861-1865)

This outfit, believed to have been made by African-American dressmaker Elizabeth Keckly, was worn by President Abraham Lincoln's wife during the winter social season of 1861-62. All three pieces are piped with white satin. The daytime bodice is trimmed with mother-of pearl buttons. Its lace collar is of the period but is not original to the bodice. The evening bodice is trimmed with lace and chenille fringed braid.

(Credit: Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History)

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First ladies' inaugural gowns through the years

As everyone wonders what first lady Michelle Obama will wear to her second Inaugural Ball on Monday, we're taking a look back at the fashion choices of other first ladies throughout history, including inaugural gowns and dresses worn to state dinners and other important events. These photos, from an exhibit at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History called "The First Ladies," start with Mary Lincoln's purple velvet dress from the 1860s and take us on a style journey all the way to Michelle Obama's 2009 silk chiffon gown that put designer Jason Wu on the map.

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