Nick's "Day At The Museum" Nick as President? Nick Verreos standing at a makeshift podium at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History Last week, I traveled to Washington D.C. with David to partake in the history-making Barack Obama Inaugural. In actuality, I was invited by the California State Society and the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising/FIDM, to host and show 9 gowns from my Spring 2009 Collection, which were "inspired" by U.S First Ladies at the Presidential Inaugural Luncheon/Fashion Show occurring on Sunday. On Friday (the day after arriving), after getting acquainted with the bone-chilling 18 degree D.C. weather and checking in with my hosts, I decided to take advantage of my "semi-day off" and went to The Smithsonian for the day. First stop: The National Museum of American History. After walking into the Museum, we realized that this was the building that housed the famous First Ladies at the Smithsonian exhibit. How apropos, since I was about to show my gowns inspired by the First Ladies of the past and present. The exhibition, which began in 1914, if you can believe it, currently features 14 dresses-- from Martha Washington to Laura Bush- and more than 90 other objects, including portraits, White House China, personal possessions and invitations. You can only imagine how excited I was to see it all. And luckily, they allowed us to take photos.Highlights of the exhibit included Helen Taft’s 1909 white-silk chiffon inaugural gown, which was appliqued with floral embroideries in metallic thread and trimmed with rhinestones and beads—the first to be presented by a first lady in 1912 to the Smithsonian. This gown was gorgeous, and it was one of my favorites on display. Also showcased is the red Chantilly lace and silk satin inaugural gown with crystal beading worn by Laura Bush in 2001. I was surprised at how almost "off-the-rack" it was, like a gown one could see at the "Evening Dress" department at Saks Fifth Avenue or even Macy's. Another gown that stood out for me was Jacqueline Kennedy's yellow-silk one shoulder gown. She wore this Oleg Cassini Sari-inspired gown to the first state dinner of her husband's Administration in 1961. It was a gown that could work in 2009 on the red carpet (with a few changes, like maybe more fitted around the hips).Finally, another dress that stood out to both David and I (it was one of our favorites!), was Grace Coolidge’s flapper-style evening dress, in a burnt orange silk velvet featuring asymmetrical tiers and jeweled drop-waist accents. It was so modern and again, I could totally see someone like actress Natalie Portman wearing this similar style at a movie premiere. It was really exciting to see these gowns, but I wished to have seen more in the exhibit, especially all those fabulous James Galanos gowns and Adolfo suits that First Lady Nancy Reagan wore and maybe a couple more from Jackie Kennedy would have been nice (at least for me). Judy Judy Judy: David and the Ruby Slippers worn by actress Judy Garland in "The Wizard of Oz" After leaving the First Ladies Exhibit, David and I wandered to another section, where the Museum exhibited items more famous to our contemporary "pop culture". The highlight of this exhibit were the infamous "Ruby Slippers" worn by actress Judy Garland in the 1939 MGM film "The Wizard of Oz". The magical shoes, changed from the book's silver slippers to those with an iridescent red hue, were created by Gilbert Adrian, MGM Studios' chief costume designer, and played a central role in the film. You know we had to get photos posing with those shoes--or else a lot of my Judy Garland-loving friends back in LA would not be happy! Adjacent to the "Ruby Slippers", was a fabulous costume--completely beaded in multi-colored sequins--worn by the Cuban-born Diva herself, Celia Cruz. So, naturally, I had to pose next to this costume , or else, my Mom would have been very mad at me if I did not!
Nick and Stephen: Nick Verreos poses with the newly-displayed portrait of TV personality Stephen Colbert--on the way to the bathroom
After walking out of these two last exhibits, I saw something that made me do a double-take: A painting of TV "Conservative" host and commentator/pundit, comedian Stephen Colbert. The portrait-- actually three portraits in one-- depicts a debonair Colbert standing at a fireplace in front of a similar portrait of himself posing in front of the same mantel with a third picture of himself. It hangs now at the Smithsonian Institution's National Portrait Gallery in Washington for a six-week showing in what the museum considers an "appropriate place" --right between the bathroom near the "America's Presidents" exhibit. I must say, there were more people taking photos by this painting than at any other painting!
President Abraham Lincoln's Top Hat and Suit
The First Fashionista: Mary Todd Lincoln's purple-colored velvet gown
One of the other standouts at this museum was visiting the just-debuted "Abraham Lincoln: An Extraordinary Life" Exhibit. It was a very somber yet impressive exhibit, displaying everything-and-anything Abraham Lincoln, from his famous top hat and suit to his wife's purple-colored velvet gown (made by her freed-slave dressmaker) to manuscripts he kept, a mask/cast made of his worn face and strong hands, plus even a piece of fence rail, said to have been split by Lincoln.
Jeweled Diva: The Hope Diamond at the Smithsonian
After spending hours at the National Museum of American History, we decided to brave the cold, walk outside and go to the nearby National Museum of Natural History. My first stop was to see the unbelievable Hope Diamond. The supposedly cursed Hope Diamond is one of the largest--and most perfect-- diamonds on the world, at 45.52 carats! According to history, this blue-violet colored diamond, originated from India, and was passed on to various European rulers, including King Louis XIV. Click HERE for more of its history.
We spent a long time in this exhibit, which besides the Hope Diamond, also featured some of the rarest and most expensively gorgeous necklaces, bracelets, crowns and earrings from all over the world. In fact there were a pair of diamond earrings that were previously owned by Marie Antoinette! Besides stunning diamonds, there were also sapphires, ruby's, emeralds; you name the it, it was there. From Cartier to Harry Winston. Finally, we slowly made it to the main halls of this Natural History Museum and I began feeling like Ben Stiller in the film Night At The Museum. Right in front of me was the immense Mammal Exhibit, with animals from all over the world, from all geographical areas, as well as the exhibit featuring animals from the Sea, starring the largest Blue Whale suspended from the ceiling above us...Finally, I couldn't leave without saying "hello" to all those Dinosaurs. While I loved looking at all those priceless jewels, my nephew and niece would have really enjoyed the Dinosaur section of this museum. And with seeing the life-size skeleton of a Tyrannosaurus Rex, I had to bid "adieu" to my "Day At the Museum"....
Click Below for a short video of me at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History:
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