Jan 5, 2009

A First Lady a Day: Julia Dent Grant

from www.wikimedia.org: Library of Congress description: "Grant, Mrs. U.S. and son (Jesse) and daughter (Nellie) also her father Mr. Dent" photo by Mathew Brady or Levin Handy, ca 1865 - 1869.
After Ida McKinley, we need a Happy story. Julia loved being First Lady. She loved the White House. But she was always adaptable. She traveled to army camps, she moved to Illinois, she switched from Army life to civilian life and back again. She would set up a home with Ulysses Grant during the war at winter camp and consider herself snug and well provisioned in a 2 room tent. She supported him when he was little more than a dirt farmer. She stuck it out through thick and thin and he adored her. So there you have it. Happy family, beloved children, loved the Washington years. She brought organization to the White House, was the first to manage the publicity, was well liked by the public. It had been a long time since the White House had seen a happy, young family in it. She wasn’t the prettiest gal in the world, but she was lively and fun and a social favorite. She thought her husband was the best, and traveled the world with him for 2 and a half years after the White house. Despite terrible financial reverses later in life, Ulysses worked literally up until his death to finish his memoirs and provide income for her and the children. And he succeeded. Julia lived out her life in comfort until her death in 1902.
for more:
http://www.whitehouse.gov/history/firstladies/jg18.html
http://www.nps.gov/ulsg/historyculture/jdgrant.htm

So we have 2 inaugural balls, one in 1869, one in 1873. This dress is from 1873.

from the www.siris-collections.edu : “...Gown worn by Julia Dent Grant, wife of President (1869-1877) Ulysses S. Grant first lady of the White House . This gown was worn by Mrs. Grant at the second inaugural ball in 1873. It is made of white and silver brocade. A point-lace fichu around the shoulders was worn by Mrs. Grant at her first inaugural ball.”


from the same source: Julia's dress rear view at far right of photo.
Click though and you can get to the large versions of the photos. How pretty. Julia was 47 at the time, and was getting a bit thicker in the middle as we all do. The fabric is really lovely and the lace sets it off. Nice to wear something from the First Ball. I like the richness of the fabric with the simple skirt silhouette and simple bodice line under the lace fichu. In 1873, this gown could have had gew gaws, fringes and over drapes galore. It's lovely, grand without being pompous, Important without being Coronation worthy and appropriate for her age. Good choice. A fine, solid A.

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