Fashion & The First Ladies

A First Lady’s fashion not only expresses the trends of that era and her personal style, but also provides the nuances into her husband’s presidential administration. At the National Museum of American History, there is an entire collection based on the first ladies, with their gowns as the focal point. Majority of the gowns housed in the museum were worn to either inaugural balls or state dinners.

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The exhibit presents each of the gowns in a glass enclosure, often with the accompanying accessories, such as shoes, handbags or jewelry. From Martha Washington’s silk taffeta gown from the 1780s to Michelle Obama’s embellished, one-shouldered, white silk chiffon gown designed by Jason Wu in 2009, the exhibit clearly shows the progression of both fashion and politics.

According to Cady Lang of TIME, “Throughout modern U.S. history, inaugural balls have given First Ladies a high-profile chance to officially introduce themselves and their values to the American people. As one of the first formal introductions to a President and the first family in their new roles, something as simple as choosing a dress for the occasion can speak volumes.” For example, Jackie Kennedy’s one-shouldered, yellow gown spoke to both her fondness for tradition and keen fashion sense. Additionally, Laura Bush’s ruby red gown was a bold color choice that helped her stand out from her mother-in-law, Barbara Bush.

Whether it be the silhouette, the color choice or who designed the gown, a First Lady’s clothing indicate both her position in the White House and the presidential administration, as a whole. While it may seem as though the First Lady is nothing more than a political figure, she has the ability to make a difference in our nation. However, it is vital that she dresses well while implementing her philanthropic campaign!

Works Cited

Lang, Cady. “From Jackie Kennedy to Michelle Obama: 16 Stunning Inaugural Gowns.” TIME, Time, Inc. 18 Jan. 2017.