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Mrs. Harding's Dress

Date: 1917


Description: This dress looks rather unassuming in picture, but it has a unique history. The bodice is a two-piece made of pink brocade, a very expensive fabric. The skirt is layered with pink and embroidered tulle over a yellow skirt, and the dress also has a separate skirt of gold tulle that can be attached. Tassels of gold velvet adorn the dress’s collar. This dress has also been modified into an afternoon dress; its original form would have been much more elaborate.


What makes this dress particularly interesting is not what it is made of but who wore it. This was the first inaugural dress of Carrie Lamoreux Harding, wife of William Lloyd Harding, to date the only governor of Iowa from Sioux City. A member of the Republican Party, he was elected in 1916 after a spirited political battle against Edwin T. Meredith. As the United States entered World War I Harding took to the home front effort with particular zeal, which got him into some trouble. He banned the use of foreign languages in churches, on the radio and over the telephone. This hurt his appeal, though he was reelected in 1918. After this he was involved in controversy again, when he pardoned convicted rapist Ernest Rathbun. This act almost got him impeached but Harding instead retired from office in 1921. He remained a spokesperson for the Republican Party until his death in 1934.


Carrie and William were married in 1907, and the couple had one child. This dress is the first and oldest of three inaugural dresses worn by Mrs. Harding during her husband’s time in office. She far outlived her husband, living until 1965. The Harding family is one of the most documented family histories here at the Sioux City Public Museum.


Donor: Whit West (son-in-law of William and Carrie Harding)

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