Crissy Haslam’s inaugural ball gowns displayed on dolls at the Tennessee State Museum

First Lady Crissy Haslam, fourth from the left, with members of the General Federation of Women’s Clubs of Tennessee.

First Lady Crissy Haslam, fourth from the left, with members of the General Federation of Women’s Clubs of Tennessee.

Inauguration Day and inaugural balls are often the public’s first official introduction to the fashion style of its First Lady. Crissy Haslam’s fashion is no exception. Her inaugural gowns have taken on an art form and will be displayed on dolls at the Tennessee State Museum.

Members of the General Federation of Women’s Clubs of Tennessee (GFWCT) at the Tennessee State Museum presented the fashionably clad dolls to the First Lady last Friday. A doll wearing a recreation of the First Lady’s 2011 inaugural gown and a doll-sized replica of the 2015 inaugural gown were donated to the museum’s collection.

More than 35 years ago, the GFWCT began to create dolls   of Tennessee’s First Ladies dressed in their inaugural gowns. Upon completion, each doll and gown became part of the permanent collection of the Tennessee State Museum in Nashville. This is the twenty-third outfitted doll in the series. From 1982 to 1989, Wilma Johnson of Manchester made the first 18 dressed dolls. Multiple ladies continued the project through the 1990s. Then, Lucy Hollis of Tullahoma is guiding the doll making.

“These dolls tell the story of fashion through time and what these First Ladies wore and what it was like at that time and I’m sure there is a story behind each one,” Haslam said.

As a girl, Haslam said she would occasionally sew; she even took some classes. “It’s not easy, especially with miniature figures, to take something big and make something small. They really do look like art.”

While the original dolls were handmade, Madame Alexander dolls are now the models. The committee that created and styled the doll and inaugural gowns worn by Haslam included Mattie Mullins and Charlene Cleveland (GFWC Monday Club of Johnson City); Anne Wonder (GFWC Centennial Woman’s Club of Tullahoma); and Darby Standefer (GFWC Valamont Woman’s Club, Chattanooga).

“It’s really fun to see the dresses preserved,” Haslam said, “and certainly fashion is an art form.”

Today, the Tennessee State Museum is housed in the James K. Polk building in downtown Nashville, where it has been for nearly 35 years. Gov. Bill Haslam proposed and the Tennessee General Assembly approved $120 million in the FY-2015-16 budget for a 140,000-square-foot facility now under construction on the northwest corner of Bicentennial Mall, which intersects Rosa Parks Boulevard and Jefferson Street. This stand-alone building will continue to tell Tennessee’s story.

The governor also announced that $40 million would be raised in private funds for the project.
More information on the museum can be found at tnmuseum.org