Our Face to the World: The Clothing of James and Elizabeth Monroe

October 16, 2009 through April 30, 2010

Our Face to the World

Throughout their lives together, James and Elizabeth Monroe were often called upon to represent their young country on the world stage – they became the face of America in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. It was the good impression that the Monroes made at the French court, where fashion and image was everything, that allowed the United States to retain France as a powerful ally and eventually to complete the Louisiana Purchase. But appearance was important at home, as well. The Monroe family had to change their style to fit the American view of what a statesman and President should be. It was their public appearance during the Monroe Administration that created the presidential image that we still have today. This exhibition highlights the remarkable collection of clothing owned and worn by James and Elizabeth Monroe that has been the focus of an intense four-year-long conservation project. This will be the public’s first and last opportunity to see the collection in its entirety. Everything from the suit that James Monroe wore during the negotiations for the Louisiana Purchase to Elizabeth Monroe’s wedding gown will be on display. Visitors will have the opportunity to view these beautiful pieces and to learn about the importance of image in politics, both at home and abroad, during James Monroe’s lifetime.