You might expect the U.S. Presidents' and First Ladies' weddings to be lavish and over-the-top, but before they lived in the White House, many of these couples were simply young and in love. You'll be amazed at how low-key some of these weddings were, including a woman who selected her wedding dress the day before and two future first ladies who didn't wear white.
Eleanor Roosevelt's Wedding Dress
In 1905, Eleanor Roosevelt, the daughter of President Theodore Roosevelt's brother, married Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the president's fifth cousin. They first met when she was 14-years-old and he was 18-years-old. After losing touch they reconnected four years later when they crossed paths at a horse show in Madison Square Garden.
The event was attended by Roosevelts from both sides of the family. F.D.R. proposed to Eleanor when he was 22 and she was 19. A Roosevelt-Roosevelt marriage was not uncommon. Her high collared gown had puffy fabric shoulders, and she wore an elegant hat.
Jackie Kennedy's Last-Minute Wedding Gown
In 1953, Jackie Bouvier tasked fashion designer Anne Lowe with making her wedding dress, but tragedy struck. Ten days before the wedding, a water pipe broke and caused havoc at Lowe's studio on Madison Avenue. It ruined 10 of the dresses for the wedding, including Jackie's gown, which had taken two months to construct.
In a panic, Lowe ordered additional ivory French taffeta and pink silk faille to remake the dress. She and her team of seamstresses were able to do it in the nick of time. The gown, with a classic neckline and bouffant skirt, is one of history's most iconic wedding gowns.
Barbara Bush Wore Her Mother-In-Law's Veil
George H.W. Bush met his future wife, Barbara Pierce when they were teenagers in 1941. The former president talked about their first meeting in the documentary titled 41. He said,"They called it a holiday dance at Christmas time and here she was in this red and green dress. I said, 'Who is this good-looking girl, that beautiful girl over there?' 'That's Barbara Pierce from Rye, New York.' So then a guy named Wozencraft introduced us. And the rest is history."
The couple got married in 1945 at First Presbyterian Church in Rye, N.Y. Barbara wore the wedding veil that George's mother donned in her own ceremony.
Nancy Reagan Hid A Baby Bump Under Her Wedding Gown
Nancy Davis was an actress in the 1940s and 1950s, and she dated many stars before meeting Ronald Reagan, including Clark Gable. She met Ronald in 1949 when he was president of the Screen Actors Guild. Ronald was not big on marriage, particularly following his divorce from Jane Wyman.
He and Nancy wed in 1952 after three years of dating. The wedding was last minute to avoid the press, and only the best man and matron of honor were in attendance. Nancy was pregnant during the ceremony at the Little Brown Church in Los Angeles. She wore a simple, no-frills dress.
Hillary Clinton Got Her Wedding Dress At The Mall
Hillary Diane Rodham met the future president, Bill Clinton, while they were both attending Yale Law School in 1971. He was staring at her in the library, so she went up to him and introduced herself. They fell in love and he proposed three years later. Bill wanted a big wedding while she didn't even care about an engagement ring. (He gave her one anyway.)
The wedding was intimate, but she didn't even have a dress until the day before. Hillary's mother went to Dillard's in the Fayetteville Mall and bought her daughter a Jessica McClintock Victorian lace gown. They wed in their living room.
Michelle Obama's '90s Wedding Gown
Like Hillary and Bill Clinton, future president Barack Obama met Michelle Robinson through their love of law. They connected while working at the Sidley Austin law firm in Chicago. Michelle originally opposed dating a colleague, but he convinced her to go on a date with him in 1989. Three years later, they tied the knot.
They got married at Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago. Michelle's brother walked her down the aisle, and they danced to "You and I" by Stevie Wonder. Michelle opted for a pretty white dress with pointed sleeves on her shoulders and a veil.
Rosalynn Carter's Wedding Dress Brought 70+ Years Of Good Luck
Rosalynn Carter was just a teenager when she walked down the aisle to marry Jimmy Carter, who would end up becoming the 39th president of the United States. She was 18 and he was 21 when they tied the knot on July 7, 1946, in Plains, Georgia, where they both grew up. At first, Rosalynn turned down Jimmy's proposal. But she changed her mind after he graduated from a wartime class at the U.S. Naval Academy.
The groom wore his Navy uniform, and Rosalynn opted for knee-length dress accessorized with gloves, a hat, and a corsage. The couple celebrated their 70th anniversary in 2016.
Mamie Eisenhower Was Another Teen Bride
Mamie Geneva Doud married future president Dwight Eisenhower on July 1, 1916, when she was just 19 years old. She had just graduated from the finishing school Miss Wolcott's. Dwight was 25 and an Army lieutenant. They tied the knot at Mamie's parents' home in Denver, Colorado, and later honeymooned at a nearby resort.
The couple had an adventurous beginning as newlyweds and moved around the world to accommodate Dwight's various postings. They traveled everywhere from the Philippines to Panama. Once "Ike" was elected president, Mamie spent much of her time entertaining foreign dignitaries, who enjoyed her style and fashion.
Bess Truman Loved Hats & Wore One On Her Wedding Day
Elizabeth Virginia "Bess" Wallace married future president Harry Truman on June 28, 1919, in Independence, Missouri. She has been described as being a tomboy when she was a child. However, as she turned into a young woman, she liked fashion and particularly enjoyed wearing hats. One friend said of Bess: "Bess always had more stylish hats than the rest of us did, or she wore them with more style."
Harry met Bess before he left for World War I and proposed in 1911. She said no. He decided to earn a good living before proposing again. She wore a lovely brimmed hat at their wedding.
Lou Henry Hoover's Dark Wedding Gown
Lou Henry was a fascinating woman. She enjoyed camping with her dad and was a proficient taxidermist. She loved rocks and minerals. She graduated with a B.A. in Geology at Stanford University, where she met future president Herbert Hoover. She was fluent in Chinese and the only First Lady to speak an Asian language.
She and Herbert wed in February 1899 at her parents' home in Monterey, California. She decided to become a Quaker like the groom, but they were married by a Roman Catholic priest. The bride did not wear the traditional white dress; instead, she opted for a dark-colored gown.
Lucy Hayes' Wedding Day Dress
Lucy Ware Webb was 21 years old when she married Rutherford Birchard Hayes on Dec. 30, 1852, at her family's home in Cincinnati, Ohio. Lucy had a couple of different suitors before settling down with Rutherford. Rutherford's mother wanted her son to marry Lucy because she admired the young woman's moral character and religious background.
Rutherford wrote in his diary in 1851: "I guess I am a great deal in love with L(ucy)....Her low sweet voice...her soft rich eyes." He also called her a "genuine woman." The couple had eight children together and wore dark clothing on their wedding day.
Frances Cleveland Wed A Significantly Older Man
Frances Folsom's eventual marriage to Glover Cleveland is a bit difficult to swallow in today's perspective. Grover met his future wife when he was 27 years old and she was just an infant. He doted on her when she was young and bought her several gifts. When her father died in 1875 without a will, Grover became administrator of his estate. Frances was 11.
They became romantically involved when she was in college. They wed in 1886 when she was 21 and he was 49. She wore a white gown with orange blossoms and laurel leaves on the dress.
Betty Ford Didn't Wear White At Her Second Wedding
Elizabeth Anne "Betty" Bloomer married Gerald R. Ford at the Grace Episcopal Church in Grand Rapids, MI, in 1948. Unlike most brides, she did not wear white on her wedding day. But she looked fabulous in her shiny dress with matching pumps. It was Betty's second marriage. Her first husband, William G. Warren, was an alcoholic. They divorced in 1947.
After she met Ford, they delayed their wedding while he was running for the U.S. House of Representatives. According to the New York Times, "Jerry was running for Congress and wasn't sure how voters might feel about his marrying a divorced ex-dancer."
Helen Louise Herron "Nellie" Taft's Home Wedding
Helen Louise Herron "Nellie" Taft and William Howard Taft were married on June 19, 1886. She became First Lady of the United States when Cleveland took the office of the president in 1909. Nellie then served as First Lady until 1913. The Tafts' wedding ceremony took place at Nellie's parents' home in Cincinnati, Ohio. During their honeymoon the couple visited New York City and Sea Bright, New Jersey. They then traveled to Europe for three months.
On their wedding day, Nellie wore a short-sleeved gown and had her hair styled into an updo, with a decorative accent to match her dress.
Edith Wilson’s Dark Wedding Dress
On December 18, 1915, President Woodrow Wilson married Edith Bolling Galt. They were married in Washington, D.C. The wedding was the second for each of them. The President had been widowed the year before, and Edith's first husband passed away in 1908.
Although many thought that Wilson’s hopes of a second term as President could be harmed by his quick courtship with Edith, these fears were unfounded. Wilson was inaugurated for the second time in March of 1917. Edith proved to be an invaluable advisor to her husband during his second term, which included the beginning of WWI.
"Like A Moth Drawn To A Flame"
Lyndon Baines Johnson, often called “LBJ,” was the 36th President of the United States. Johnson married his bride Claudia Alta "Lady Bird" Taylor in San Antonio, Texas, on November 17, 1934. A honeymoon to Mexico followed the ceremony. Johnson became President in 1963, following the tragic assassination of John F. Kennedy.
LBJ and Lady Bird were introduced to each other by a friend. Afterward, Lady Bird confessed that she felt drawn to LBJ "like a moth drawn to a flame." He must have felt the same way, as he proposed marriage on their first date. Two weeks later, Lady Bird accepted the proposal.
Long Before Watergate
Before his name became synonymous with one of the biggest American political scandals in modern history, Richard Nixon was just a guy in love. He and his future bride Thelma Catherine "Pat" Ryan met one night while they were both auditioning for a community play. The story is that he fell in love with her on that very first night.
The couple was married on June 21, 1940 in Riverside, California. They honeymooned in Mexico. The photo above shows the Nixons holding their newly-acquired wedding license. They became President and First Lady of the United States following Nixon's second presidential campaign.
America’s First Presidential Marriage
The future first President of the United States, George Washington, married Martha Dandridge on January 6, 1759, at the White House, at that time a plantation. Martha was a widow and had four children from her previous marriage. George was 26 and Martha 27 when they tied the knot.
According to Wikipedia and the few remaining depictions of the event, “Washington's suit was of blue and silver cloth with red trimming and gold knee buckles. The bride wore purple silk shoes with spangled buckles, which are occasionally displayed at Mount Vernon.” Her dress was also blue, to coordinate with Washington’s.
Barack And Michelle Obama Did The Traditional Garter Toss
For their anniversary in 2018, Michelle Obama took to Instagram with this intimate photo taken at their wedding reception. She shared that Barack had been sick with a cold that morning but felt better at the altar.
She wrote: "We ended up dancing almost all night. Twenty five years later, we’re still having fun, while also doing the hard work to build our partnership and support each other as individuals. I can’t imagine going on this wild ride with anybody else.
Laura Bush Wore A Simple Tan Dress For Her Wedding
Laura Lane Welch married George Bush on Nov. 5, 1977, at her childhood church in Midland, Texas. The newlyweds posed with the future president's parents, George H.W. Bush and Barbara Bush. Unlike her mother in law, Laura did not opt for the traditional, fancy wedding gown. Instead, she wore a simple tan dress she bought off the rack to the ceremony.
She met George at a backyard barbecue in July, and they became engaged just three months later. He was the Governor of Texas from 1995-2000 and became the President of the United States in 2001.
Bill Clinton Bought Hillary A House Before They Were Married
Bill Clinton proposed to Hillary Rodham many times before she finally accepted and agreed to become his wife. As she later described, "I was desperately in love with him but utterly confused about my life and future. So I said 'No not now' -- what I meant was 'Give me time.'"
What set her over the edge? He had purchased a home for them to live in together, one she'd casually mentioned liking earlier. This showed her that he was serious about wanting to spend his life with her, and she said yes.
Another View Of The Reagans On Their Wedding Day
Ronald Reagan had a great love for his bride Nancy and frequently gave her special gifts: drawings he’d done himself and signed "I.T.W.W.W.” (I love you more than anyone ‘in the whole wide world). We didn't know he was such a romantic!
The Reagans' Best Man was William Holden, the Academy-Award winning famous for films like Sunset Boulevard, The Wild Bunch, and Sabrina. Maid of Honor was his wife, actress Brenda Marshall.
Laura Bush Found Family
One of the beautiful things about marriage is that it means two families are coming together. In the case of Laura Bush, she was also gaining siblings for the first time. Having been an only child for her entire life, Laura was elated to gain several brother and sisters-in-law when she wed George W. Bush. George is one of six children of George and Barbara Bush.
Although they had a quick engagement and marriage, the couple has been happily married for four decades. George W. has even said that marrying Laura was the “best decision of [his] life.
Grover Cleveland Was The First (And Only) President To Be Married At The White House
When Grover Cleveland married Frances Folsom in 1886, he became the first and only president to be married at the White House! The celebration took place in June, 1886. Before he married, his sister Rose had served as the first lady.
Reporters were so desperate to get details about the Presidential honeymoon that they followed President and Mrs. Cleveland with binoculars. The couple eventually had five children and remained together until Cleveland's death in 1908.
A Founding Father's Wedding
Founding Father Thomas Jefferson married a widow named Martha Wayles in 1772. At the time, Jefferson was the Governor of Virginia, so his bride became the state's first lady. As a gift, Jefferson presented Martha with mahogany forte-piano that he said was “worthy the acceptance of a lady for whom I intend it.”
The couple lived together in his home, Monticello. Martha died a full two decades before Jefferson became the third President of the United States.
Jackie’s Ten Bridesmaids
When Jackie and John F. Kennedy wed on September 12, 1953, the entire Kennedy clan turned out in Newport, Rhode Island. The couple invited 800 guests to attend the ocean-front wedding at Saint Mary’s Church, and who wouldn’t RSVP ‘yes’ to that event?
Jackie’s bridesmaids included her sister, Lee, her stepsister Nina Auchincloss, John’s sister Jean, sister-in-law Ethel, and Jackie’s former roommate, Nancy Tuckerman. There were ten bridesmaids total, plus a maid of honor, all wearing pink taffeta gowns.
Surrounded By Powerful Men
Of course, John F. Kennedy included his brothers in his bridal party. Jackie is pictured with the men of the family, including Edward and Robert Kennedy, standing on either side of John.
JFK was holding office as a United States Senator at the time, and included his Senate colleague George Smathers in his party, along with his brother-in-law Sargent Shriver, cousin Joe Gargan, and brother-in-law Michael Canfield. A few of his friends included Lem Billings, Red Fay, and Torbert Macdonald. Of course, Charles Bartlett stood by the couple when they wed- he was the one who introduced them.
You Can See Jackie’s Dress On Display
We’re not fortunate enough to have all of the First Ladies’ wedding dresses on display to admire in person, but Jackie Kennedy’s dress is! The dress designed by Ann Lowe is now iconic for American brides and has been deemed one of the best-remembered bridal gowns of all time.
Jackie mostly wore the gown by itself, with little jewelry. She held a bouquet filled with pink and white spray orchids and gardenias. You can see the dress displayed at the Kennedy Library in Boston, Massachusetts. Several other iconic outfits of Jackie’s are also on display here.
The Social Event Of The Season
Much like royal weddings, nuptials as exciting as John and Jackie Kennedy’s wedding don’t happen often. But when they do it’s a highlight on everyone’s calendar. Life photographer Lisa Larson wrote, “Their wedding turned out to be the most impressive the old society stronghold had seen in 30 years.”
The wedding was so important, even the Pope himself blessed the couple. JFK proposed to Jackie after the couple had been dating for two years. He presented her with a 2.9 carat diamond ring with a matching emerald.
The Happiest Day Of Their Lives
Jackie Kennedy was the first Catholic woman to serve as First Lady of the United States. She was baptized at the Church of St. Ignatius Loyola in Manhattan and shared her beliefs with John.
Pictured kneeling together in the century-old church of St. Mary’s, this was the happiest day of the couple’s life. It was 1953, before JFK’s successful campaign for the presidency, before the Vietnam War, and before Robert F. Kennedy was killed. Ten years later, Jackie would tragically become a widow.
President Johnson’s Daughter Was Married in the East Room
Two of President Johnson’s daughters wed while he was in office. Lynda Baines Johnson, the eldest daughter of the President married Marine Capt. Charles S. Robb in 1967. The couple met while Robb was an aide in the White House, and they ended up marrying in the East Room of the White House.
He later went on the become the governor of Virginia, making her the First Lady of Virginia. The couple would have three daughters and although Robb reportedly had an affair with Miss Virginia USA 1983, the couple remained married.
Melania Trump's Stunning Wedding Gown
Melania Knauss married the future president, Donald Trump, in 2005. She chose a Christian Dior dress, which consisted of 300 feet of tulle. The gown cost between $100,000 and $200,000 to create. Not only was the dress really expensive, it was also very large and heavy.
In fact, she was advised to have a good meal before walking down the aisle so she could support the weight of the fabric and its accouterments. It was embroidered with more than 1,500 pearls and rhinestones!
Chelsea Clinton Had A Lavish Wedding
Former first daughter Chelsea Clinton was married to her investor beau Marc Mezvinsky on July 31, 2010. The two were wed at an estate on the Hudson River in Rhinebeck, New York. Chelsea's famous father, of course, gave her away.
The beaming 30-year-old bride chose a strapless Vera Wang gown of ivory silk organza, with an embroidered waistband and a Cathedral-length wedding veil. The dress is rumored to have cost around $25,000.
400 Guests Attended Clinton's Wedding
Although there was (understandably) tight security surrounding Chelsea Clinton's wedding, some details about the event have emerged. For example, Bill Clinton toasted his son-in-law during the reception, saying that he was "looking forward to having some company because I'm outnumbered."
Chelsea and Bill reportedly danced to a Frank Sinatra song, with Bill shedding tears during the poignant moment. Guests were then treated to a 500-pound, gluten-free vanilla sponge cake.
A White House Wedding For Woodrow Wilson’s Daughter
Eleanor “Nellie” Wilson was lucky enough to have her wedding in the White House while her father was in office. President Woodrow Wilson gave away his daughter Nellie to her husband William McAdoo, who was the Secretary of the Treasury in 1914.
The couple married in the Blue Room. Nelli was 24 years old at the time, and McAdoo was a 50-year-old grandfather, widowed with six children from his previous marriage. After the couple divorced in 1934, McAdoo married a 26-year-old when he was 71!
Tricia Nixon Had The Only Rose Garden Wedding
The daughter of President Richard Nixon, Patricia “Tricia” Nixon Cox, and her husband are still the only couple to be wed in the Rose Garden at the White House. She was married in 1971 to Edward Finch Cox, who was a law student at Harvard.
The wedding was a huge event, described as a wedding of “American royalty” with Tricia’s father holding office. The cake was made with 400 egg whites and of course the guest list included D.C.’s elite. After marrying, the couple moved to the suburbs of New York and live a relatively quiet life with their son.
Amy Carter Refused To Let Her Father Give Her Away
Former President Jimmy Carter's daughter Amy married James Wentzel in a relatively no-fuss ceremony held in Plains, Georgia, in 1996.
Amy, who grew up in the White House, didn't let the fact that her dad was a former president influence her wedding plans. She bucked tradition and didn't let her father give her away, saying that she "belonged to no one". She also kept her own name.
Dorothy Bush Was The First Presidential Daughter To Be Married At Camp David
Dorothy Walker Bush, daughter of President George H.W. Bush and the sister of President George W. Bush, was the first presidential daughter to be married at Camp David. The wedding, to Robert Koch, took place in 1992.
Camp David is the ultra-private presidential retreat located in the woods of Catoctin Mountain Park, Maryland. President Franklin D. Roosevelt turned the former military camp to a presidential retreat in 1942. The facility is named after Dwight David "Ike" Eisenhower.
Alice Lee Roosevelt’s Marriage Was Rocky
Alice Lee Roosevelt, the eldest daughter of President Theodore Roosevelt, was a wild child. She was once quoted saying, “If you haven’t got anything good to say about anybody, come sit next to me.”
In 1906 she married Republican Congressman Nicholas Longworth in a White House wedding. He was 14 years older than she, and Alice wasn’t ready to settle down. She was caught having an affair with a Senator, which resulted in a daughter between the two. Longworth had a reputation for being a playboy, and the two ended up having a very unstable marriage.
George Washington Gave Away His Step-Granddaughter
When Eleanor “Nelly” Curtis was married in 1799, her Step-Grandfather, President George Washington, gave her away. She married a nephew of Washington’s by the name of Lawrence Lewis. The wedding was a huge event, and even had a song created in its honor, named, “Nellie Grant’s Wedding March.”
After they were married, the couple lived near Mount Vernon at Woodlawn, adjacent to Washington’s Mount Vernon estate.
Jackie Kennedy, The First Lady Of Fashion
Jacqueline "Jackie" Kennedy changed fashion as we know it. Instead of opting for detailed, lace-and-crystal clothes, she wore simple, streamlined gowns. Her inaugural ball dress is no exception. It was an off-white chiffon dress with no sleeves and a silk top.
Designer Ethel Frankau added a twist: a cape. The cape matched the dress and was tied in the front. Like the gown, it included pearl beading. Jackie and Frankau worked on sketches together to design all three of her inauguration dresses--yes, three! One before the inauguration, one during the ceremony, and one for the party.
Lady Bird Johnson's Dress Represented Hope
In 1965, Lyndon Johnson became the 36th president of the United States. His First Lady was Claudia "Lady Bird" Johnson. She requested designer John Moore for a yellow, satin gown for the inauguration. Lady Bird chose yellow because she saw it as the color of hope; the inauguration took place one year after Kennedy's assassination.
The understated dress had a high neckline and sleeves. Lady Bird wore long, white gloves that went over her elbows and a pearl necklace. Instead of a coat, she donned a brown fur shawl.
Michelle Obama Promoted An Unknown Designer
When Barak Obama first got inaugurated in 2009, Michelle wore a dress from an unknown designer. Although Jason Wu was not famous at the time, he excelled with her white chiffon gown. The one-shoulder dress is garnished with organza flowers and Swarovski crystals. Her shoes were from Jimmy Choo and her jewelry by Loree Rodkin.
Jason Wu is a Taiwanese-born Canadian and first-generation American citizen. Designing Michelle's gown granted him mainstream success in designing. In 2013, Michelle hired Wu again for her second inaugural gown, this time in an eye-catching red.
Michelle Obama's Second Dress Is Striking
For Michelle Obama's second inaugural gown, designer Jason Wu opted for a sparkling ruby red. The dress had a cross-halter strap neckline with velvet details. Wu combined it with bracelets by Kimberly McDonald and shoes by Jimmy Choo. Obama had also just cut her stylish bangs.
In January 2013, the Smithsonian displayed Michelle Obama's second inaugural dress. The gown joined the First Ladies exhibit and celebrated the museum's 50th anniversary. The First Ladies exhibit still exists today and has featured inaugural dresses since 2011.
Barbara Bush Coined A New Color
A few years before George W. Bush entered the White House, George H.W. Bush got inaugurated in 1989. His wife, Barbara Bush, enlisted the help of designer Arnold Scaasi. Throughout his long career, Scaasi had designed dresses for First Ladies like Mamie Eisenhower.
The dress was called "Barbara Blue" for its two-tone blue hues. The bodice is navy blue velvet, and the skirt is royal blue satin. The sleeves have a classic Princess Diana puff that was popular in the '80s. Designer Judith Leiber made her classic pearl necklace and matching purse.
Hillary Clinton Got Her Gown Before The Election Ended
Bill Clinton entered his first term in 1993. While he wore a classic black tux, the First Lady Hillary Clinton donned a violet gown. She reached out to one of her favorite, little-known designers, Sarah Phillips. Hillary asked Phillips to send her sketches before Clinton had even won the election.
The ball gown had an iridescent blue overskirt made from silk mousseline. Sparkling lace decorated long sleeves and a high neckline. Phillips hailed from Arkansas, Bill Clinton's home state, where he had worked as governor. She had help from costume designer Barbara Matera Ltd.
Hillary Clinton Wore Her Second Dress To 14 Balls
In 1997, Bill Clinton held a record-breaking 14 inaugural balls, the most in American history. First Lady Hillary Clinton wore a dress from the famous designer Oscar de la Renta. For some of the night, she donned a golden cape with the gown as an homage to Jackie Kennedy's fashion.
Oscar de la Renta created an A-line gown with golden lace. It had long sleeves and a high neckline. Clinton first met the designer when she ran into him at the Kennedy Convention. He said that she was wearing one of his dresses, which she didn't know at the time.
Grace Coolidge Wore A Top Hat
Calvin Coolidge's wife, Grace, preferred to wear pants and keep her hair short. But she was also known for her lavish outfits. Her inauguration outfit broke boundaries with her feathered top hat. Along with her grey dress, of course.
Grace Coolidge sported a white, fur-trimmed jacket that matched the hat. She completed the unique look with fitted gloves and a beaded clutch. Coolidge's style has been described as "modern." While in France, she was awarded a gold medal for her fashion sense from Charles Worth of the French garment industry.
Mamie Eisenhower Revealed Her Gown Before The Ball
In 1953, Dwight D. Eisenhower became the first American president to host two inaugural balls. First Lady Mamie Eisenhower needed a dress that could withstand both parties. She donned a light pink peau de soie gown by designer Nettie Rosenstein, which she showed the press a week before the event.
Over 2,000 rhinestones decorated the dress, which was a full a-line dress with a v-neck. The matching gloves and jewelry came from Trifari. Mamie topped the look with a purse by Judith Leiber and shoes that she had her name printed on.
Media Swarmed Over Rosalynn Carter's Dress
In 1977, Jimmy Carter began his presidency. His First Lady, Eleanor Rosalynn Carter (sometimes just called Rosalynn Carter), wore an elaborate dress. Designer Mary Matise created a gold-trimmed blue chiffon gown. She also donned a gold-and-blue coat over her dress.
The dress had translucent sleeves and a gold T-shaped neckline. Rosalynn also carried a simple, gold purse by After Five. The news pounced on her dress, discussing the lavishness and symbolism of bringing glamor into the White House. Carter called his wife his "best friend and chief advisor."
Nancy Reagan's First Gown For The "Most Lavish" Ball
The New York Times called Ronald Reagan's inauguration ball the "most lavish" in American history. In 1981, First Lady Nancy Reagan entered the ball in a white gown with rose decorations. The designer, James Galanos, was known to create garments for high-profile customers.
The one-shoulder gown was made with silk satin, and its designs had white beads and sheaths of lace. Galanos also made the matching white gloves, which went with Ronald Regan's tux shirt and bow. David Evins designed Nancy's white purse, and her jewelry was from Judith Leiber. All are on display in the Smithsonian.
Nancy's Second Inaugural Gown Took 300 Hours To Make
In 1985, Ronald Reagan was elected president for a second term. For her second inauguration ball, Nancy one again hired designer James Galanos. Her sparkling dress had a bolero-esque and art deco design. Galanos spent 300 hours applying all of the beads by hand and reportedly cost a whopping $46,000.
Nancy Reagan was known to love handmade clothes, but she also adored high fashion. Her second inaugural dress combined both. It was carefully made with white chiffon and glass beads from Austria and Czechoslovakia. Throughout her life, designer Galanos continued to create dresses for her.
Pat Nixon Went Yellow For Her First Inaugural Dress
In 1969, Richard Nixon began his first presidential term. His wife, Thelema "Pat" Nixon, wore a pale yellow gown to the ball. Designer Karen Stark made it with silk satin and embroidered it with silver and gold. The long-sleeved top is encrusted with Austrian crystals.
Pat also wore matching shoes created by Herbert Levine. They included carvings of her name and the date. She completed the look with white gloves and a yellow purse by Morris Moskowitz. On that night, Richard Nixon said, "When [Pat] gets finished with [the dress], you'll get it at the Smithsonian."
Laura Bush Represented Her Home State
George Bush was inaugurated into his first term in 2001. Then, First Lady Laura Bush decided to represent her home state by choosing the Dallas-based designer, Michael Faircloth. Although many First Ladies wear white to the inauguration, Laura donned a fiery red.
The dress was embroidered with Chantilly lace and red crystals. Underneath was a silk mermaid gown with a scoop neckline and long sleeves. Laura also carried a matching red purse by designer Judith Leiber. She completed the look with a dainty silver choker.
Laura's Second Inaugural Designer Dressed Many First Ladies
In January 2005, George W. Bush went into his second term in office. Oscar de la Renta, who created gowns for many other first ladies such as Hillary Clinton and Jacqueline Kennedy, designed Laura Bush's dress. It was an ice-blue v-neck covered in sparkles.
The dress had a slit down the middle and long, translucent sleeves. It was heavily embroidered with Austrian and bugle beads. De la Renta chose the color to match Laura's eyes. Throughout the years, Laura Bush wore several of Oscar de la Renta's clothes, even appearing in Vogue.
Melania Trump's Dress Is In The Smithsonian
During the 2017 presidential inauguration, Melania Trump wore a dress by designer Hervé Pierre. It is a figure-hugging white gown with a slit skirt and ruffle that wraps around the body. Pierre designed the gown while collaborating with Melania. After Melania wore the dress on January 20, 2017, she gave it to the Smithsonian.
The museum displays the dress in a section titled First Ladies. It explores the changing roles of American first ladies throughout the past 200 years. Melania was both surprised and grateful that her dress had gone on display.
Jill Biden Wore An Inaugural Outfit That Conveyed "Trust, Confidence, And Stability"
For her husband Joe Biden's 2021 Presidential Inauguration ceremony, Dr. Jill Biden went with a lovely blue dress and jacket ensemble from Markarian, an American label from designer Alexandra O'Neill.
The designer said that the outfit used several shades of blue as well as a variety of fabrics in order to "signify trust, confidence, and stability." Due to the unusual circumstance of the global pandemic, Biden paired a matching face mask with her look.
Helen Taft Pioneered The Smithsonian's First Lady Exhibit
Helen Taft, the wife of William Howard Taft, encouraged the creating the First Lady exhibit in the Smithsonian. When curators asked for her to contribute a dress, she donated her 1909 inaugural gown. The white silk chiffon gown had floral embroideries and a train.
The designs on her dress were a combination of appliqués and rhinestones. Strings of crystals also hung off of the sleeves. The gown had an unusual but stunning square neckline. For accessories, Helen wore long white gloves and a lace choker that matched the dress. Today, the dress appears yellow because it discolored over time.
Betty Ford Worked With This Dress's Designer
After Richard Nixon resigned in 1974, Gerald Ford took his place as the 38th president. His wife, Betty Ford, wore a pale green chiffon gown to the inauguration. Betty reached out to designer Frankie Welch with ideas for the dress, including her favorite color. There were no inaugural balls when Ford entered office.
The gown was covered with embroidered chrysanthemums with small crystals. It had a high collar with a low, narrow v-neck and long sleeves. Later, Betty wore the same dress for dinners with her husband and King Juan Carlos of Spain.
Mamie Sparkled During The Second Inauguration
For Dwight Eisenhower's second inaugural ball, Mamie wore another design from Nettie Rosenstein. Her yellow ballgown had a pretty off-the-shoulder neckline. The taffeta is covered with pearls, lace, crystal drops, and topaz. It is no secret that Mamie loved bling.
Like the previous inauguration, Mamie customized part of her outfit. This time, she carried a Trifari bag with the letter "M" on one side and the date "1957" on the other. She accessorized her look with an elegant pearl neckline and long, white gloves.