Nevada First Ladies’ Gowns on Display

A glimpse into Nevada’s First Ladies Ball Gown collection is now on display in the “Nevada Stories: Objects Found In Time” Gallery at the Nevada State Museum in Carson City. 

The exhibit features the dress worn by Una Reilly Dickerson at the opening of the Governor’s Mansion in 1909 and the inaugural ball gown worn by Katherine Ong Sisolak in 2019. 

“Together, both gowns represent over 100 years of fashion history,” said Jan Loverin, Curator of Clothing and Textiles at the Nevada State Museum. “From hand-made to machine-made, from store-bought to an online purchase, these two dresses show the changes in fashion styles, clothing construction, manufacture, technology, and acquisition.” 

The differences in garment closures are an example of the progression of clothing construction. Clothing made before the 1930s featured hook and eye closures rather than zippers. Gowns at the turn of the 20th Century were usually hand-made by a dressmaker or purchased at a local retail dress shop.  

The exhibit also includes photographs of the Nevada First Lady Ball Gown collection held in the State Museum’s archives —14 gowns from 13 different women. Each First Lady since the 1940s has donated her inaugural ball gown to the Nevada State Museum. 

“This collection gives us a look into the lives of Nevada’s First Ladies, who played influential roles in their husbands’ administrations while developing their own interests and passions,” Loverin said. 

The Nevada State Museum, located at 600 N. Carson Street in Carson City, is open Tuesdays through Sundays, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Regular Museum admission is $10 for adults and free for members and children ages 17 and younger.