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)

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