Mari Culver and doll A doll of First Lady Mari Culver was unveiled today at the statehouse. The porcelain doll features a pink dress, a miniature replica of the dress Culver wore to the inaugural ball. (see photo)

The First Lady is impressed with the work of doll designer, Julie McCullough. "I was amazed with how beautifully she captured the dress, even the details of the stones in the neckless," Culver jokingly added, "but I don’t think my face is that full." McCullough, who moved to Des Moines from Lincoln, Nebraska three years ago, says for her, this was a completely new project.

McCullough says she’s been making cloth dolls for 30 years, and says dressing a porcelain doll is a "very different thing." McCullough says her biggest challenge was finding fabric for the dress. "This is beautiful material and it was almost impossible to find something that looked like the fabric," McCullough explains, "so I simply called the manufacturers, who were overjoyed that their dress was worn by the First Lady of Iowa, and they sent me several yards of the fabric."

Former first ladies Billie Ray and Christie Vilsack joined Culver for the unveiling of the doll. Culver says she’s hoping to follow their lead – using the role of First Lady to raise awareness of important issues in Iowa.

"Obviously, with two small children, I haven’t had an opportunity to do as much as I might otherwise," Culver said, "but it is my hope that I can be a good advocate and a voice for children in this state, at-risk youth, and emergency shelter services." During her time as First Lady, Christie Vilsack traveled to libraries around the state, talked about literacy, and the importance of reading to children. Billie Ray is credited with helping restore Terrace Hill.

The Culver doll, along with dolls of other Iowa First Ladies, is now on display outside the Governor’s office in the capitol building in Des Moines. In addition to the porcelain doll, McCullough also created a cloth doll likeness of Mari Culver. She presented that doll to Chet and Mari Culver’s daughter, Clare. The Culver’s also have a young son, John.  

Audio: Mari Culver talks about being First Lady. :54 MP3