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Inside An Iconic Closet

The life, times and, most importantly, clothes of Marjorie Merriweather Post

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Since 1955, ephemera from the life of late socialite Marjorie Merriweather Post have been stored inside her Hillwood Estate. Amazingly enough, the 25-acre grounds still brim with fine Russian art, 18th-century French décor and an extravagant garden. Now, Post’s 70-year-old clothing collection is set to display throughout the D.C. museum—channeling seven decades of culture and sartorial elegance.

“The collection is a time capsule not only of Marjorie’s style, but a historical retrospective of the changes in women’s fashion,” said Hillwood Estate curator Howard Kurtz. “I am unaware of any other collection that encompasses 70 years of fashion from one individual.” 

The businesswoman began preserving her pieces at the age of 16 and even marked select pieces with notes. According to Kurtz, it wasn’t until Post’s arrival home from Russia in 1940 when she began to actively seek a home for the entirety of her collection. “Marjorie knew the value of the collection for future generations and did not want to divide [it],” said Kurtz. When museums would only select one or two pieces to keep, she decided to create a home for all of them at her very own Hillwood Estate.

From “Alice Style” shoes named after Alice Roosevelt to a ‘70s bohemian flare, each of Marjorie’s pieces represents an iconic decade. Unlike her previous wedding collection showcased at the museum in 2009, this collection displays the evolution of trends throughout the years. The exhibition will also feature Post’s accessories and even her “Suffragette suit” worn to visit President Woodrow Wilson in 1917.

As an effective transition for visitors, Post’s summer/spring wardrobe is currently on display and will be updated to fall/winter in October. For those unable to see the collection in person, Kurtz and Trish Donnally created Ingenue To An Icon: 70 Years of Fashion From the Collection of Marjorie Merriweather Post—a 150-page tome dedicated to the historical fashion illustrated in the live exhibit. Take a peek into the collection featured in the volume here.