Fun Fact Friday: Dolley Madison’s famed gown

Dr. Lynn Uzzell is the official Dolley Madison at the Dolley Madison House.  She is shown here in a hand-sewn replica of the silk gown, commissioned from Aria Couture.

Even in the regency era, gowns may have been make from repurposed fabric, and there is no better potential example than Dolley Madison’s favorite gown.  In last week’s post, I mentioned a fire the original White House suffered.  Before the fire, Madame Madison managed to save some pricey red silk velvet drapes.  She loved those drapes so much that they were one of the few things she ordered saved before the fire destroyed her home.  Through time, the curtains are not known to have survived intact.  However, she did have a rather lovely red silk velvet gown that she cherished so dearly that she kept it until the end of her life, even though she was so poor near the end that her former servants loaned her money to survive.

Dolley Madison
The faded original gown during its final display.

As no known verified piece of the drapes have survived, it’s difficult to state conclusively that her gown is made from those drapes.  However, it would be highly coincidental for her to have had such affection for both drapes as well as a gown both made from red silk velvet when this was quite an expensive fabric, and there’s a complete lack of receipts showing fabric purchased for the gown.  A highly unusual thing to lack in the records….

My dears, if you repurpose fabric to make your gowns, rest assured that you are going what our former First Lady very most likely did for her most beloved gown.


Lady Antoinette


(aka Aria Clements)


Fun Fact Friday: The Dolley Series

Yes, this week’s post is going up on a Saturday.  We here at the ORS have bee extremely busy.

When we think of the regency era, most of us think of Jane Austen’s England of fashion-setting France.  How many of us give thought to the regency era in American?

Meet Dolley Madison.


Why yes, she DOES look familiar.  We’re all seen her portrait before, but may not have given more than a passing thought as to who that woman in gold-trimmed white may be.

From 1809 through 1817, Dolley reigned the White House.  Well, specifically until 1814, George Washington.jpgwhen the British burned the building.

Your fun fact for this week:

Our own regency First Lady, Dolley herself, is credited with saving the famous 1797 portrait of President George Washington (itself a copy by the artist, Gilbert Stuart, of one of his own earlier full-bodied pieces of Washington).  While she did not personally remove the portrait, she ordered it removed, and a group of servants, including some who were slaves, under the direction of her assistant Jean Pierre Sioussat, broke it free from the screwed-to-the-wall frame.  If not for the decision by this lady, the portrait would have been destroyed.

Please enjoy this upcoming series on Dolley Madison during her time as our own regency First Lady.

Lady Antoinette


(aka Aria Clements)