23-Nov, 06:46

12:12, January 20 315 0

2017-01-20 12:12:17
150 Years of Inaugural First Lady Ball Gowns

A first lady’s inaugural ball dress can say a lot about her agenda, as well as the political climate of the new administration.

In some instances the price of the dress can make a statement. For example, Nancy Reagan chose a $22,500 hand-beaded James Galanos gown in 1981, developing a relationship with a designer who once remarked: “I’m only interested in designing for a certain type of woman. Specifically, one that has money.” In the era of the 1970s recession, Rosalynn Carter opted for an off-the-rack dress by Mary Matise for Jimmae. She had worn it twice before.

The color of a dress can also send a message. In 1965, when Lady Bird Johnson’s husband was sworn in as president for a full term, she wore a bright yellow John Moore gown that could symbolize optimism. Hillary Clinton wore a gown by Sarah Phillips in purple, a shade that evokes regal qualities.

Michelle Obama, as Vanessa Friedman has written, used her fashion choices as “sartorial diplomacy.” Mrs. Obama, who wore Jason Wu to both inaugurations, made a cause of supporting American designers. She catapulted Mr. Wu, then a 26-year-old graduate of Parsons School of Design, into the fashion spotlight.

Here is a look back at inaugural first lady fashion, dating to Mary Todd Lincoln’s gown in 1861.