First Ladies’ Fashion Over The Years
Being the First Lady is such a responsible role. You must be under the public eye all the time, people follow your tinniest mistakes, and you don’t get to have privacy like you used to have. Being the First Lady has its perks as well, including free travel, a private chef, and free couture pieces.
First Ladies of the United States knows how to dress well. Having a fashion style has run among the First Ladies for centuries. After all, they always had beautiful gowns and a team of designers supporting their looks. Keep on reading to learn which ladies had a special love toward gowns and what were the controversies surrounding them – you might be surprised by some of them.
25. Helen Taft
Helen Herron Taft was only eighteen when she first met her husband, Howard Taft. Several years later, they were married, and she stood by her husband through each step of his political career. She was the first First Lady to ride in her husband’s inauguration parade. At the night of the ball, it was clear that she loves fashion.
She wore a gorgeous white chiffon gown embroidered with gold. Sadly, only two months after the inauguration, she had a stroke. Helen was determined to do complete her role as a hostess in the White House, and her sisters helped until she could do it on her own.
24. Edith Bolling Wilson
Edith Wilson met her husband when he was already in the office. She never got the chance to have an inauguration dress. Edith has a pretty rough life and numerous tragedies in her life and had been left a widow at a young age.
She had also given birth to a son who died on a few days after birth. Unfortunately, she was no longer able to have any children. Edith met Woodrow in 1915, and at the time, he was a widower as well. There were many rumors about their relationship, and Woodrow even told Edith that she could leave him if she isn’t comfortable with it. However, she famously said that she would stand by her fiancé, the President, not for duty, pity, or honor, but for love.
23. Florence Kling Harding
When Florence married Harding, he was the owner of a newspaper called the Marion Star. She supported him, and many called her the brain of the business. She was referred to as “The Duchess” for organizing extremely elegant parties.
She was also into fashion at the time. She wore silk neckbands to hide her wrinkles. Harding was the first-ever First Lady to gain the right to vote; she also owned a movie camera, a radio, and was the first-ever to invite celebrity film stars to the White House. At the inauguration, she wore a gown signed by Harry Collins.
22. Grace Anna Goodhue Coolidge
When Grace wanted to marry Calvin Coolidge, her mother was strongly against it. Yet, they manage to stay together for the rest of their lives. Rumor has it that Coolidge and his mother-in-law never got over the rift.
For Coolidge’s inauguration and since it was 1920’s, Grace she wore a flapper-style evening dress. Grace Coolidge wore a flapper-style evening dress in gold lamé adorned with velvet-trimmed black-and-gold metallic lace on inauguration day.
21. Lou Henry Hoover
Lou Henry Hoover was the wife of Herbert Hoover. The couple met at Stanford University, where she was the only woman Geology major at the time. Ladies across the States adored her for her fashion style, and she was often described as one of the “best-dressed women.” Lou Henry Hoover was the first-ever First Lady to appear in Vogue magazine.
Lou preferred wearing clothes made in the States and used her fashion to promote the cotton textile industry. Interestingly, she was always wearing cotton-based dresses. Her inaugural dress was a stately but straightforward silk crepe evening gown adorned with metallic thread brocade.
20. Eleanor Roosevelt
Eleanor is still one of the most famous first ladies ever. She was very vocal about her feminist views and civil rights while her husband, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, was in office.
Eleanor wasn’t too much into fashion because her interests were elsewhere. Still, she made quite the stir with a gorgeous slate-blue crepe grown, with the color later being named for her: “Eleanor blue.” The dress was designed by Sally Milgrim and had a gold leaf and flower pattern. In 1933, it was quite similar to what the movie stars of the time would choose to wear.
19. Elizabeth Wallace Truman
Elizabeth Truman was married to President Harry Truman. They had known each other for years before they decided to spend their lives together. They were even attending the same school together as children.
When this duo moved into the White House, the country was in the midst of a world war, so this was a difficult time to run the country. Her gown for the inaugural ball was designed by a woman named Madame Pola. She chose a dark dress with white accenting and adorned it with a fur cape.
18. Mamie Doud Eisenhower
Mamie Eisenhower met Dwight when he was a military man, in San Antonio, Texas. Unlike all the First Ladies before her, Mamie really loved fashion.
She also loved being a host. Some of her clothing was designed by Scaasi, Mollie Parnis, Trifari, and Sally Victor. She was considered one of the “best-dressed” women of the time. She enjoyed fashion so much that there was a look inspired after her, named “The Mamie look.”
17. The Mamie Look
Mamie Eisenhower loved the classic look, full-skirted dresses, and lots of accessories. In 1953, she wore an inaugural gown designed by Nettie Rosenstein. The gown had a pink peau de soie gown, and it was hand-embroidered with more than 2,000 rhinestones.
Mamie add a bit of personal touch and paired this dress with gloves and jewelry by Trifari, a beaded purse by Judith Leiber, and shoes by Delman. Up to this date, the dress can be seen on display at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History’s collection of inaugural gowns.
16. Jackie Kennedy
Even younger generations know just how big a fashion icon Jackie Kennedy really was. Jackie is one of the most famous first ladies of all time, and together with her husband, JFK, they made both a beautiful and fashionable couple.
Jackie became one of the first ladies whose entire look was consistently dissected. Her every fashion choice was an absolute hit, and she became even a major global trendsetter. Oleg Cassini was her leading designer.
15. Jackie’s Fashion
Jackie was cautious about her media presence. She was so careful about it that she was the first First Lady to hire a press secretary. She liked to control her image.
She has also presented in the media as ‘the ideal woman’ while the rest of the Kennedy family was considered to be a kind of American royalty. For the inauguration, Jackie wore an off-white sleeveless silk chiffon gown, which was embroidered with silver thread. She knew that the inauguration moment would be televised, and she deliberately picked a color that she knew would stand out on black and white television.
14. Lady Bird Johnson
Lady Bird Johnson was married to President Lyndon B. Johnson. LBJ took office after President Kennedy’s tragic death; therefore, his inauguration event wasn’t as glamorous as it would usually be.
Lady Bird wore a yellow gown by designer John Moore. With yellow, she wanted to symbolize hope and optimism for a nation in mourning. She was very active and helped children and worked on high-quality education.
13. Pat Nixon
Nixon took office in a time of high tensions, massive protesting, and a social movement. At the same time, two significant events occurred: the Vietnam War and the assassination of Martin Luther King.
Nixon claimed that he would restore ‘law and order’ across the States, but his own staff has admitted that they sought to criminalize both the civil rights movement and the anti-war protesters. As we knew, Nixon had a hard time leading, and none of his ideas ended well for him. Pat chose to wear a yellow gown for the inauguration as well. It was embroidered with gold and silver and encrusted with Austrian crystals.
12. The Style of Betty Ford
Betty Ford was a strong feminist and the founder of the Betty Ford Center, which is also one of the most popular clinics ever. Her activism deserves enormous respect, but her stylus side deserves recognition as well.
Betty preferred a classic and simple look. Her outfits were never too complicated, but she still made to look Gerald Ford look much better while standing next to him.
11. Rosalynn Carter
Rosalynn Carter is the wife of President Jimmy Carter, both of whom are still living. When Carter started his presidency, the States were in an inferior place financially. Team Carter decided to do something different, and instead of a fancy ball, Carter decided to host “people’s inaugural parties.”
For this party, tickets were sold for a symbolic $25. For this occasion, Rosalynn chose to wear a gown she had previously worn when President Carter was the governor. She wore a sleeveless blue chiffon gown with gold trim. This was seen as a glamorous move and didn’t go publicly fo well.
10. Nancy Reagan
Nancy Reagan was the wife and famous actor and President Ronald Reagan. One thing was sure about Reagan – he loved fancy events. His inauguration celebrations were allegedly among the most expensive ever. As expected, people didn’t approve of this since the nation was in the midst of a recession.
Nancy wore a white beaded one-shoulder dress constructed of silk satin and a lace overlay for the inaugural ball. For Reagan’s second term, she, the designer Galanos and the gown was again white, only this time, it was outfitted with long sleeves. Rumor has it that the designer Galanos and the dress was again white, only this time it was outfitted with long sleeves, and the gown cost was around $46,000.
9. Barbara Bush
When George H.W. Bush took over the office, she was already familiar with White House procedures and life. Her inaugural gown was designed to make her appear more youthful. She wore an Arnold Scassi in royal blue velvet and satin.
Barbara and George were definitely a traditional couple, and the fact that Scasssi designed her dress only confirmes that. Scassi had been designing for the first ladies for many years all the way back to Mamie Eisenhower. Barbara was often described as America’s “most glamorous grandmother.”
8. Laura Bush
For the first inauguration of her husband, George W. Bush, Laura wore a red-crystal embroidered gown designed by a Texas, similar to her predecessor Hillary. She also wore beautiful pearls.
For Bush’s second inauguration, Laura wore Oscar De La Renta. She wore an embroidered ice blue and silver tulle gown encrusted with Austrian crystals. Clearly, fashion knows no political bounds, and it doesn’t matter what political party you might affiliate with if you like good design.
7. Michelle Obama
Obama said numerous times that he wouldn’t get the top to be the President of the States without the support of his wife, Michelle Obama. For his inaugural ball, Michelle wore Jason Wu – all white, one-shoulder chiffon dress.
For her second inaugural gown, Michelle wore Jason Wu again in 2013. The gown she chose was a halter neck red chiffon and velvet gown. She also had accessories with a diamond ring by jewelry designer Kimberly McDonald and Jimmy Choo shoes. Wu said numerous times that it was a pleasure and an honor working with the First Lady.
6. Melania Trump
The current first lady and the wife of President Donald Trump, Melania Trump, put a lot of effort into her public appearance. As a former model, Melania is still passionate about great outfits and fashion.
For her inaugural gown was signed by Ralph Lauren. Later on, in 2017, Melania donated her inaugural ball gown to the Smithsonian Institute, where it will remain on permanent display.
5. Ida Saxton McKinley
Ida Saxton McKinley had a unique style and clear-cut taste when it comes to fashion outfits. She is often described as a unique and interesting lady, and her fashion style supported these claims.
Ida had a signature style of hers – a standing collar and an insert of chiffon. On top of that, it was often trimmed with pintucks that would soften and complement the outfit. Ida also had the pleated ruffles with her underskirts.
4. Frances Folsom Cleveland Preston
Frances Folsom Cleveland Preston was a trendsetter of her time. Her style was so original that she had appeared on the covers of Leslie’s and Harper’s.
Even at her wedding, the Washington Post had high praise of her. “The bride wore an enchanting white dress of ivory satin, simply garnished on the high corsage with India muslin crossed in Grecian folds and carried in exquisite falls of simplicity over the petticoat,” reported the Washington Post.
3. Ellen Arthur
During President Arthur’s administration, the times were different. The First Lady wasn’t usually under the spotlight. People were much more focused on the President and his fashion style.
According to various documents and photos, President Arthur did had style. In fact, his style was much glorified both in public and media. It was as if Ellen’s fashion sense was non-existent. Maybe she liked it that way?
2. Michelle Obama’s Second Inauguration
For her second inaugural gown, Michelle wore Jason Wu again in 2013. The gown she chose was a halter neck red chiffon and velvet gown. For accessories, she had a diamond ring by jewelry designer Kimberly McDonald.
Michelle Obama has been on the cover of Vogue magazine three times, and her fashion style is entirely in line with today’s modern style. She is still a fashion icon, after White House life.
1. Hillary Clinton Gives Tips
Hillary Clinton often changed her style and her hairstyle as well. She never made significant changes, but always gave her best to stay fresh. And it seems that she really loves the pink color.
In a 2011 interview, Clinton spoke with Harper’s Bazaar and addressed some fashion. “I have this Ferragamo hot-pink bag that I adore,” she said. “My view was that I would carry it around only in spring, but it makes me so happy, I’m even now lugging it around in January. I mean, how can you be unhappy if you pick up a big pink bag?”