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Michelle Obama's Chicago pals at Smithsonian inaugural gown launch

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WASHINGTON -- With her mother, Marian Robinson, sitting in the front row, first lady Michelle Obama officially handed over her inaugural gown to the Smithsonian on Tuesday, and a group of friends from Chicago were there to mark the historic occasion.

"And I have to say, to be honest, I am very honored and very humbled, but I have to say that I'm also a little embarrassed by all the fuss being made over my dress. Like many of you, I'm not used to people wanting to put things I've worn on display. So all of this is a little odd, so forgive me," Mrs. Obama said.

"But at the same time, I truly recognize the significance of this day. This gown -- and all of the items that we'll see in this wonderful exhibit -- help us connect with a moment in history in a very real way," she said.

Mrs. Obama's gown, designed by Jason Wu, her Jimmy Choo heels and Loree Rodkin bracelets, earrings and ring now are in the Smithsonian's popular "First Ladies" collection. Mrs. Obama's ensemble, worn Jan. 20, 2009, is in a glass case in a new gallery in an expanded exhibit.

Some of Mrs. Obama's closest friends were at the ceremony marking the donation of the gown and the opening of the exhibit. The Chicago pals included Sandy Matthews; Anita Blanchard; Cheryl Whitaker; Kelly Dibble, and Eleanor Kaye Wilson, the godmother of the Obama girls, Malia, 11, and Sasha, 8, and a close friend of Mrs. Robinson's.

And there were women from Chicago who serve in the White House: senior adviser Valerie Jarrett; Mrs. Obama's chief of staff, Susan Sher, and White House fellows director Cindy Moelis. Also in the audience was Bettylu Saltzman, the Chicago Democratic activist who early in President Obama's political career spotted him as an extraordinary political figure.

Said Mrs. Obama, about her gown: "I'll never forget the moment that I slipped on this beautiful gown. I remember how just luscious I felt as the president and I were announced onto the stage for the first of many dances. And I'll cherish that moment for the rest of my life."

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Lynn Sweet

Lynn Sweet is a columnist and the Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Sun-Times.

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This page contains a single entry by Lynn Sweet published on March 10, 2010 8:43 AM.

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