The Pences’ Inauguration Gowns Were Made in Indianapolis

And here’s what Melania had to say.

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Hoosiers not named Pence will be in the spotlight tonight at the Inaugural Ball, but you won’t see their faces. They’re the six Indianapolis women who whipped together the gowns for Karen Pence, her two daughters, and a daughter-in-law, in a fraction of the time it normally takes to produce a formal dress.

Sarah Knochel’s Something Wonderful dressmaking shop in Broad Ripple got the call to design and sew eight gowns, for the Indiana Ball last night and the Inaugural this evening. The shop’s previous owner, Knochel’s mentor, made Karen’s wedding dress and Indiana gubernatorial inauguration gown, so the two go way back. After the presidential election, Knochel’s friends wondered if Karen would go local for the Inauguration dresses, but the seamstress didn’t dare to believe it.

When the call came in, Knochel didn’t have much time to savor it. “Normally we start a custom dress six months in advance,” she says. The first order of business was meeting with the Pence women for 30 minutes to discuss their preferences—complete with Secret Service surrounding Knochel’s house. Karen wanted a flowy skirt, Knochel says, because her husband likes to twirl her when they dance. Then Knochel brought in extra dressmakers. They had to rush, but also take their time. “We had the Smithsonian in mind,” she says, acknowledging the final destination of Karen’s Inauguration dress. “We did a lot more handiwork than we ordinarily do.”

Karen’s Friday-night dress is made of 45 yards of silk. Her white-lace Indiana Ball dress has a five-inch horsehair hem to keep the lace from fraying. All told, the women spent 470 hours over six weeks stitching (but not bitching—politics was not a hot topic).

Melania’s input? Not very much, as far as Knochel knows. She says Karen wasn’t sure which of her two dresses she could wear to the Inaugural Ball until she found out what color Melania would be wearing. But the First Lady’s assistant reached out and advised Karen to wear whatever she wants.

Knochel, though, had to wait ’til Thursday night’s Indiana Ball to see which dresses each lady chose for each event.


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