Inaugural Ball historyThe Inaugural Ball has not been continuously held since before 1949. From 1789 until Franklin D. Roosevelt's fourth and final inauguration in 1945, only 14 First Ladies attended Inaugural Balls: Dolley Madison, Elizabeth Monroe, Louisa Adams, Sarah Polk, Harriet Lane (niece and First Lady of the only bachelor President), Mary Lincoln, Julia Grant, Lucy Hayes, Lucretia Garfield, Frances Cleveland, Caroline Harrison, Ida McKinley, Edith Roosevelt and Nellie Taft. A few First Ladies didn’t live long enough to see their husbands inaugurated or didn’t live in the White House.
With the Inauguration of Harry Truman in 1949, First Lady Bess Truman, got the tradition going as we know it today. Eleven different First Ladies have had Inaugural gowns (6 of them had two gowns each for their husbands' two inaugurations - Eisenhower, Nixon, Reagan, Clinton, Bush and Obama). Betty Ford never wore one since her husband became President upon the sudden resignation of Richard Nixon in 1974. Bess Truman and also Lady Bird Johnson didn’t wear one when their husbands were sworn in upon the death of the former presidents, FDRoosevelt, and JFKennedy.
Here are three First Lady gowns.
Special thanks to the White House Historical Society.