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DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) -- A mini-Mari it is not.

But the dress. That's the gown Mari Culver wore last January at her husband's inauguration as Iowa's 40th governor.

"I was amazed at how beautifully she had captured the dress," Culver said. "Even the detail down to the stones in the necklace."

An 18-inch doll sporting the shimmering pink gown, with a hint of green shadow, went on display Monday, joining 39 others in a Capitol case. The state has displayed likenesses of first ladies clad in tiny inaugural gowns since 1976, when the tradition was begun by former first lady Billie Ray.

Ray, whose husband Robert Ray was governor for 14 years, said she wanted a unique way to recognize Iowa's first ladies.

"I tried to think of something that was different and hadn't been done," said Billie Ray, who attended a ceremony Monday.

Each of the dolls is from a mold based on Ray's likeness -- each has the same thin, closed lips, high cheek bones and pencil-brown brows. Audubon artist Judy Sutcliffe made the dolls and sewed dresses for all the previous first ladies.

But this year the gown fell to Des Moines doll artist Julie McCullough, who said reducing Culver's flowing life-size dress to doll size wasn't easy.

"The proportion is so bizarre," she said. "The proportion of these dolls are not at all realistic. The legs are very short, so it's a lot of trial and error."

McCullough got the exact fabric from a Texas prom dress manufacturer that was used for the first lady's gown. After a paper pattern, a muslin pattern and some trial and error, she sewed the dress using just half a yard.

She also made a fabric doll of Culver for the governor's 6-year-old daughter Clare.

On Monday, Clare propped the cloth doll on her shoulders, pulling the lanky legs with both hands and bouncing her up and down. After a word from her mother, she clasped the doll primly to her chest.

Although each new doll wears a dress similar to the gown worn by the first lady, researchers had to dig back to the 1840s to determine the fashion of the day.

The dolls begin with wide skirts and high-buttoned collars in the two decades before the Civil War. Puffed sleeves carry on into the next century along with lace. Then flapper fashion shows through with pearls and higher hems, revealing a little leg. Shorter sleeves and lower necklines give way to no sleeves and uncovered shoulders by the 1960s.

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"It shows how things change," Ray said. "It's also a record of who's the first lady -- sometimes you kind of forget."

Still, not until Christie Vilsack did the nameplate that accompanies each doll list the first lady's first name.

"That's just a cultural change," said Christie Vilsack, wife of Tom Vilsack, whose two terms ended this year. "I've never called myself 'Mrs. Tom Vilsack,' ever."

Culver also chose to have her own full name.

The state Department of Cultural Affairs has begun working to collect the actual gowns worn by first ladies.

Ray, who has five inaugural dresses, said she's eager to turn them over for preservation since "they're getting mothy."

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