News

First Lady Fashion: Inauguration Day Style Through The Years

TRI-STATE NEWS HEADLINES

From our newsroom to your inbox weekday mornings at 9AM.
Sign Up
NYC Fashion

How does first lady Michelle Obama’s style compare to that of Jackie Kennedy, Laura Bush or Rosalynn Carter?

More magazine’s fashion features editor Susan Swimmer chronicled first lady Michelle Obama’s style in her book “Michelle Obama: First Lady of Fashion and Style.”

See Also: First Lady Fringe: Michelle Obama’s New Hairstyle

She visited The Couch to help us break down six of the most distinctive inauguration day looks of First Ladies — past to present.

Jackie Kennedy – 1961 Inauguration

President John F. Kennedy and First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy after Kennedy's Inauguration, January 20, 1961. (Photo by CBS)

President John F. Kennedy and first lady Jacqueline Kennedy after Kennedy’s Inauguration, January 20, 1961. (Photo by CBS)

The style rules in the 1960’s dictated dark suiting for women — but leave it to Jackie to buck the trend and choose a pale greenish/gray color (officially called “fawn”) ensemble that was trimmed in sable. This was designed by Oleg Cassini, a long-time friend of Mrs. Kennedy’s, and the designer Jackie used to create most of her wardrobe for her first year as first lady. Jackie would go on to create fashion hysteria with her every style selection – women nationwide followed her like men do the sports pages. Jackie also become well known for her signature triple strand of pearls – she wore them nearly daily. The pearls were actually faux, made by the jeweler Kenneth Jay Lane.

Rosalynn Carter – 1977 Inauguration

Rosalynn Carter became first lady in 1977. A southern belle whose husband took office during a terrible economic time, the country didn’t quite know what to expect, fashion wise. For the inauguration she chose a long, teal coat and brown leather knee-high boots. Ahhh, 70’s fashion was a rough time. Many in the fashion elite termed it dowdy, but the look really spoke to the couples folksy sensibility – and also the dire financial circumstances at that time. For the evening festivities Mrs. Carter wore the same dress she wore 6 years earlier to the governor’s ball.

Nancy Reagan – 1981 Inauguration

US President Ronald Reagan (C) salutes beside his wife Nancy Reagan after being sworn in as 40th President of the United States by Chief Justice Warren Burger during inaugural ceremony, on January 20, 1981 at the Capitol in Washington, DC. At right is vice-president George W. Bush. (Photo credit : AFP/Getty Images)

US President Ronald Reagan (C) salutes beside his wife Nancy Reagan after being sworn in as 40th President of the United States by Chief Justice Warren Burger during inaugural ceremony, on January 20, 1981 at the Capitol in Washington, DC. At right is vice-president George W. Bush. (Photo credit : AFP/Getty Images)

For her husbands first inauguration in 1981, Mrs. Reagan set the tone for the glamor she would come to be known for. This bright, red sheath and top coat with matching hat was part of what was allegedly a $25K inauguration wardrobe budget. Her go-to designers were Bill Blass, Adolfo and Galanos. Reagan went on to wear this particular color so much it came to be known as Nancy Reagan Red. Reagan was both criticized and admired for her high style (maybe more criticism in the end), but 1989 she was honored by the CFDA (Council of Fashion Designers of America) with a lifetime achievement award for her contribution to fashion.

Hillary Clinton – 1997 Inauguration

For Bill Clinton’s second inauguration in 1997, Mrs. Clinton chose a salmon-hued swing coat made for her by designer Oscar de la Renta. It was praised by fashionistas – the color flattered her skin tone and the cut suited her frame. Her first inaugural choice was a bit of a disaster-a red and white checked suit with a cobalt blue hat – so it was nice to see her get it so right the second time around. Mrs. Clinton weathered years of criticism regarding her appearance.Today, Mrs. Clinton has found her fashion groove and wears well-cut pants suits and great accessories.

Laura Bush – 2005 Inauguration

U.S. President George W. Bush, his wife Laura, his father former president George H.W. Bush, his mother Barbara Bush and daughter Jenna Bush watch the inaugural parade from the Presidential reviewing stand in front of the White House January 20, 2005 in Washington, DC. Bush was inaugurated for a second term earlier in the day.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

U.S. President George W. Bush and wife Laura, watch the inaugural parade from the Presidential reviewing stand in front of the White House January 20, 2005 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

For her husband’s second inauguration in 2005, Mrs. Bush was a vision in white. It was a color never worn by a first lady for this occasion before. The dress and coat combination featured white beading – even the gloves were white. She looked fantastic.

Michelle Obama – 2009 Inauguration

US President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle walk along Pennsylvania Ave during the parade following Obama's inauguration as the 44th US president in Washington, DC on January 20, 2009.        (Photo credit: ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)

US President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle walk along Pennsylvania Ave during the parade following Obama’s inauguration as the 44th US president in Washington, DC on January 20, 2009. (Photo credit: ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)

This dress and coat ensemble was made for her by Cuban-American designer Isabel Toledo. The color was officially termed “lemongrass,” and it ignited quite the debate on the day of the event. It was quite cold that day, colder than expected, and at the last minute Toledo added a coordinating cashmere sweater underneath for warmth. Mrs. Obama went on to become a fashion icon for legions of women the world over, and for good reason: She champions young designers, she mixes high and low price points, and she inspired women to have fun with it.