First Ladies' Inaugural Gowns Throughout History
Happy Birthday, Barbara Bush! The former First Lady, who turns 92 today, served as FLOTUS from 1989 to 1993, where she became heavily involved with advancing literacy, eventually founding her own organization, The Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy, while in office.
Despite her straightforward, conservative wardrobe during the primaries, Mrs. Bush finally showed off her glamorous side at the 1989 inauguration with her royal blue Arnold Scaasi gown. The First Lady was so fond of the asymmetrically draped design that she was reluctant to make the customary donation to the Smithsonian Institution. "I love this dress," she told Time, "and I really hate to give it up."
The First Lady arrived at Donald Trump's inaugural ball in an off-the-shoulder Hervé Pierre column gown.
For her second and final Inaugural gala, Mrs. Obama returned to Jason Wu for a custom red chiffon gown.
For the 2009 Inauguration of Barack Obama, newly minted First Lady Michelle Obama chose a Jason Wu gown.
Mrs. Bush sparkled in Carolina Herrera and dramatic jewelry.
For her husband's 2001 gala, Mrs. Bush chose a crystal-embellished gown in vivid ruby from home-state designer Michael Faircloth. The Chantilly lace design earned Faircloth a very important accolade. "[The President] said, 'You always do a wonderful job, Michael,'" the Texan talent told People. "Then he looked at Mrs. Bush and said, 'And my Laura always looks so beautiful.'"
Hillary Rodham Clinton
When it came to finding a gown for the 1993 gala, the future Secretary of State looked to Arkansas store owner Barbara Baber and former Designing Women costume designer Cliff Chally for options. Focusing on her love of bold color, the team helped the First Lady select a violet lace gown from New York designer Sarah Phillips. Of the classic choice, Baber said: "It doesn't take a whole lot to make her look good. But she is not going to be the first person with bell-bottoms. Fashion victim she's not."
For her 1989 inaugural outing, Mrs. Bush chose a sapphire velvet-and-satin gown from Arnold Scaasi. The First Lady was so fond of the asymmetrically draped design that she was reluctant to make the customary donation to the Smithsonian Institution. "I love this dress," she told Time, "and I really hate to give it up."
Mrs. Reagan chose a single-shoulder James Galanos for her husband's 1981 inaugural ball. "She knew her style very well, and it was always simple and elegant," Galanos told the Los Angeles Times. The First Lady made the most of the $22,500 hand-beaded gown by wearing it a second time before donating it to the Smithsonian.
Sentiment-and the '70s-era recession-led Mrs. Carter (pictured with daughter Amy) to recycle the off-the-rack blue chiffon gown she wore to her husband's gubernatorial inauguration six years earlier. "I think she was trying to make a statement about being economical and being 'just folks,'" fashion historian Valerie Steele has said. The gold-trimmed dress, which was designed by Mary Matise for Jimmae, was topped with an evening cape by New York designer Dominic Rompollo.
For the 1969 gala, Nixon selected a mimosa-hued gown designed by Karen Stark for Harvey Berin. "The Nixons are middle-American people who don't want to be flash-in-the-pan," her wardrobe mistress Clara Treyz told Time. "They don't want to be jet-setty or way out. Mrs. Nixon must be ladylike." The First Lady wore the Swarovski crystal-studded satin dress and matching bolero jacket to two more public events.
Lady Bird Johnson
Johnson presided over the 1963 event in a canary-yellow bateau-neck gown by John Moore. The down-to-earth First Lady ordered her dress through Neiman Marcus in Texas. "I like clothes-I like them pretty," she told Time, "but I want them to serve me, not for me to serve them."
For the 1961 celebration, Kennedy collaborated on a design with Bergdorf Goodman's Ethel Frankau. "What you see with the inaugural gown is the triumph of her own personal style," the Fashion Institute of Technology's Valerie Steele has said. "To use fashion as a way of representing her husband's presidency-to look modern, elegant, simple and American." The sheath layered blouson chiffon over a silver-embroidered bodice.
"First Lady pink" became a national sensation following Mrs. Eisenhower's 1953 debut in a peau de soie Nettie Rosenstein design with 2,000 rhinestones. Matching evening gloves and a pearl-encrusted clutch finished the look.