The Inaugural Gowns Of First Ladies Throughout History

Whenever a new U.S. president gets elected, they have an inauguration. It is a ceremony followed by a ball. While the president takes center stage, the new First Lady receives special attention. First Ladies spend a lot of time on their inaugural gowns.

From Mamie Eisenhower to Jill Biden, every First Lady has gone all out on their inauguration dress. Some even planned their attire before the election concluded. They often hired talented designers, some famous, others not well known.

Each First Lady Has Her Own Personal Style

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Who said fashion and politics don’t mix? The First Lady of the United States of America has always been an honorable designation. Each of the women who have stepped into the role has shown a keen eye for detail in everything they do.

This, of course, includes their fashion choices, as millions of people will see what they’re wearing at any given time. And any outfit of the First Lady will forever be recorded in America’s history.

Jackie Kennedy, The First Lady Of Fashion

John and Jackie Kennedy appear at the inaugural ball in 1961.
Kennedy Library Archives/Newsmakers
Kennedy Library Archives/Newsmakers

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.

Nancy Reagan’s First Gown For The “Most Lavish” Ball

Ronald and Nancy Reagan dance during the 1981 inauguration.
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Getty Images

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.

Laura Bush Represented Her Home State

The George W. Bush family waves at the crowd during his inauguration.
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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.

Hillary Clinton Got Her Gown Before The Election Ended

Bill and Hillary Clinton wave at the 1993 inaugural ball.
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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.

Mamie Eisenhower Revealed Her Gown Before The Ball

Mamie Eisenhowever sits in her white inaugural ball gown.
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Getty Images

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.

Lady Bird Johnson’s Dress Represented Hope

Lady Bird Johnson poses in her inauguration gown.
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Annie Reilly/Pinterest

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.

Media Swarmed Over Rosalynn Carter’s Dress

Roslaynn Carter is seen at the 1977 inaugural ball.
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Carol Parker Mittal/Pinterest

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.”

Pat Nixon Went Yellow For Her First Inaugural Dress

In her apartment, Pat Nixon models the gown that she wore to the Inaugural Ball.
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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.”

Michelle Obama Promoted An Unknown Designer

Barak and Michelle Obama attend the 2009 inaugural ball.
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SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images

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

Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama arrive together for the 2013 Inaugural Ball.
Michael Kovac/WireImage
Michael Kovac/WireImage

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

George H.W. and Barbara Bush wave at the crowd of the 1989 inauguration.
© CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images
© CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images

A few years before George 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.

Laura’s Second Inaugural Designer Dressed Many First Ladies

George and Laura Bush wave at the crowd during the 2005 inauguration.
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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.

Hillary Clinton Wore Her Second Dress To 14 Balls

President Bill Clinton and wife Hillary stand at an inaugural ball.
Cynthia Johnson/Liaison
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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 and Grace Coolidge drive with Senator Curtis on the way to the 1925 inauguration
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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.

Jill Biden Wore An Inaugural Outfit That Conveyed “Trust, Confidence, And Stability”

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PATRICK SEMANSKY/AFP via Getty Images
PATRICK SEMANSKY/AFP via Getty Images

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 poses in her inauguration gown.
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Shiona McRoberts/Pinterest

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

Betty Ford (right) talks to guests at the inaugural ball.
Julius Maloney/Pinterest
Julius Maloney/Pinterest

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

Mamie Eisenhower poses in her 1957 inaugural gown.
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Getty Images

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.

Nancy’s Second Inaugural Gown Took 300 Hours To Make And Cost $46,000

Ronald and Nancy Reagan wave to participants at the 1985 inauguration.
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Lisa Schenning/Pinterest

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.

Lou Hoover Appeared In Vogue

Lou Hoover wears her inauguration dress.
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Elaine Morrison/Pinterest

Lou Hoover started many “firsts” for First Ladies. She pioneered First Lady radio broadcasts and was the first president’s wife to appear in Vogue. Lou was also known for her high fashion. The dress she wore to Herbert Hoover’s 1929 inauguration was no exception.

Lou wore a dark drey dress with a train. Both the neckline and sleeves were stylized to flow and appear asymmetrical. The silk crepe gown also had a silver thread brocade and broach. In the Smithsonian, it looks more green than grey because of aging.

Melania Trump’s Dress Is In The Smithsonian

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SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images
SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images

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.

Michelle Obama In Carolina Herrera At The 2014 State Dinner

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JEWEL SAMAD/AFP via Getty Images
Photo credit should read JEWEL SAMAD/AFP via Getty Images

Michelle Obama chose a Venezuelan-American designer to put together her look for the 2014 state dinner where she and her husband welcomed French President Francois Hollande. The Carolina Herrera gown had an intricate beaded black bodice, with a full skirt made of liberty blue material.

Author of Michelle Obama: First Lady of Fashion and Style, Susan Swimmer, said, “From the White House to Versailles, it’s not that far…It’s much more keeping in a French aesthetic than I’ve seen her wear before. It’s very French in terms of how ornate it is and the use of lace and the velvet sash.”

Michelle Obama Wearing Naeem Khan In 2009

US President Barack Obama (R), First Lad
NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP via Getty Images
NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP via Getty Images

During the 2009 state dinner with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his wife Gursharan Kaur, former First Lady Michelle Obama dazzled in a silver sequined evening gown. Custom made by Naeem Khan, the strapless gown was adorned with beads forming an abstract floral pattern in the cream-colored silk. The matching wrap, stacked bangle bracelets, and dangling earrings were just the icing on the cake.

Of the evening gown, author Mary Tomer said, “She walked out in something that’s figure-flattering and chic. Mr. Naeem’s work is known for glamour and embellishment, and this dress seems to embody that. She’s sparkling and radiant.”

Lucretia Rudolph Garfield’s Inaugural Gown From 1881

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Library of Congress
Library of Congress

Obviously, fashion has come a long way since Lucretia Rudolph Garfield’s time. Her husband, James A. Garfield, was the United States president from March 4, 1881 – September 19, 1881. Needless to say, high necklines, full sleeves, and floor-length gowns were the name for not only the First Lady but women in general.

But for her inaugural gown, Garfield opted for a fancier take on the typical evening gown, adding in more than one ruffled accent and a coat-type overlay. In 2017, the dress was on display at the James A. Garfield National Historic Site.

Lucy Webb Hayes’ Inaugural Gown In 1877

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Library of Congress
Library of Congress

Lucy Webb Hayes wore this gown to her husband, Rutherford B. Hayes’, inauguration in 1877. Full of ruffles and various patterns, this was more than likely peak, high-end fashion during the time, including the long train and hip enhancers.

Hand-sewn by Mrs. M. A. Connelly of New York, the old damask and cream satin gown was perfect of Hayes, who, historically, favored more modest clothing that covered her arms, neck, and legs. During her time as First Lady, she was both praised and criticized for her choice of clothing.

Mary Todd Lincoln’s Inaugural Gown In 1861

Mary Todd Lincoln, 1861 Inaugural Gown
Glasshouse Vintage/Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Glasshouse Vintage/Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

In 1861, Mary Todd Lincoln wore this full ball gown to her husband’s inaugural ball. Complete with a flower sash and crown, Mary Todd was known for her love of clothing and spending more than a few dollars on her extensive wardrobe, much to her husband’s displeasure.

Either way, she stunned during the ball with the off-the-shoulder number, little white gloves, flower accents, and stunning jewelry to complete the ensemble. Needless to say, this type of fashion most likely won’t be gracing the White House anytime soon.

Ida Saxton McKinley In Feathers And Lace

Ida Saxton McKinley In Feathers And Lace
Library of Congress/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images
Library of Congress/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images

Nothing says high fashion quite like Ida Saxton McKinley striking a pose on this plush chair while wearing layers upon layers of lace and feathers. The former First Lady actually worse this Venetian lace and ivory silk, with gold trim accents to her husband’s inaugural ball in 1897.

It was an intricate work of art. And, no surprise, considering Ida was something of a handicrafter herself. During her time, it’s said that Ida crocheted over 4,000 slippers for orphans, friends, and even veterans.

Edith Roosevelt Reused Her Dresses For Material

Edith Roosevelt Reused Her Dresses For Material
Edith Kermit Carow/Getty Images
Edith Kermit Carow/Getty Images

In 1901, Edith Roosevelt wore this lovely gown to her husband’s inaugural ball. Complete with a long train, crochet fan, and detailed bodice, Edith looked all the bit the First Lady. Ironically, it was Edith’s fashion that started the First Lady collection at the Smithsonian Institute.

Unfortunately, the former First Lady didn’t have much to donate, as she tended to wear gowns and then completely rip them apart! She enjoyed using pieces of previously worn dresses as material for new gowns and other outfits, including her inaugural gown’s bodice.

Helen Taft Was All About Her Beaded Accents

Helen Herron Taft, First Lady and Wife of U.S. President Howard Taft, Portrait, circa 1910's
Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

It was 1910 when former First Lady Helen Taft stood for this portrait. And while this isn’t the gown she wore to her husband’s inaugural ball, it was still one she took great pride in. Typically adorning her gowns with beaded and metallic accents, this gown is no different.

With elbow-high gloves, a beautiful white silk chiffon skirt, this gown is both elegant and jaw-dropping. Her inclusion of the jeweled choker and subtle earrings just adds to the ensemble’s appeal.

Mamie Eisenhower’s Second Inaugural Gown Had Crystals

Mamie Eisenhower's Second Inaugural Gown Had Crystals
PhotoQuest/Getty Images
PhotoQuest/Getty Images

While Mamie Eisenhower pulled out all the stops for her first inaugural gown, it’s really nothing compared to her second inaugural gown. Worn during her husband’s second term, Mamie ditched her signature pink in favor of a citron lace-and-taffeta gown. And that wasn’t the only difference.

Instead of rhinestones, this gown was instead detailed with pearls, translucent topaz, and even some crystal drops. Like the first gown, Eisenhower decided to accessorize with elbow-high gloves, adding a matching purse to the look. Like the first gown, this one was designed by Nettie Rosenstein.

Mamie Eisenhower Ditching Her Signature Color

Mamie Eisenhower Ditching Her Signature Color
L. Waldorf/Evening Standard/Getty Images
L. Waldorf/Evening Standard/Getty Images

On May 16, 1957, Mamie Eisenhower was seen ditching her signature color in favor of a darker hue. During this outing with her husband, the former First Lady opted to wear a silk floor-length gown with a rather interesting detail in the middle of the bodice.

Either way, it doesn’t deter for the elegant look she mustered up, with the subtle jeweled accents of her jewelry, elbow-length gloves, and her white fur shawl that she has draped over her arm as she smiles up at her husband.

Jackie-O Knows How To Serve A Look

Jackie-O Knows How To Serve A Look
Kennedy Library Archives/Newsmakers
Kennedy Library Archives/Newsmakers

On May 11, 1962, former First Lady Jackie Kennedy wowed during a dinner in honor of the Minister of State for Cultural Affairs of France, Andre Malroux. Jackie O wore a pale pink silk gown for the engagement, opting to ditch the sleeves and adding elbow-length gloves as an accessory.

The look is complete with a subtle yet beautiful gold clutch bag, dangling earrings, and an accented clip to hold her hair in an elegant up-do. There’s a reason she stands out in this picture!

Caroline Lavinia Scott Harrison Supported Local Businesses

Mrs. Benjamin Harrison
Library of Congress/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images
Library of Congress/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images

To her husband’s inaugural ball, former First Lady Caroline Lavinia Scott Harrison wore this stunning Ghormley, Robes et Manteaux gown. With silk procured from New York by the Logan Silk Company, Harrison’s entire vision for the gown was based on her husband’s America-first economic policy.

So, she ordered materials domestically, wanting to make sure to support local businesses instead of foreign ones. She even hired Indiana artist Mary Williamson to design the brocaded silk pattern on the dress, a design of burr oak tree leaves.

Jill Biden Was Bold And Beautiful In This Red Reem Acra

Midwest Inaugural Ball
Emily Barnes/Getty Images
Emily Barnes/Getty Images

During the 2009 Midwest Inaugural Ball, now-First Lady Jill Biden dazzled in a bold red dress. Playing off her signature style of bold colors, Biden didn’t disappoint in this lovely Reem Acra evening gown. Cinched at the waist, the sleeveless number looks gorgeous on the current First Lady.

She also made a particularly bold move, opting to leave her neck bare of jewelry and simply donning a single bracelet on her right arm and some earrings. Either way, though, she looks stunning.

Helen Taft Bringing Out Her Signature Beads

Helen Taft Bringing Out Her Signature Beads
Library of Congress/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images
Library of Congress/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images

For her husband William Taft’s inauguration, Helen Taft wore this lovely ball gown. Adorned with beaded accents, Taft’s silk chiffon gown was accented with floral embroidery on top of metallic detailing. The dress was designed by the Frances Smith Company, an American-based company.

Her statement of wearing an American company would go on to be a custom for all future First Ladies. This particular gown has been donated to the Smithsonian Collection, where it is on display for all to enjoy.

Pat Nixon Posing in Her Inauguration Gown

Pat Nixon Posing in Her Inauguration Gown
Bettmann/Getty Images
Bettmann/Getty Images

For her husband’s inaugural ball, former First Lady Patricia Nixon wore something a little out of her element. Typically wearing practical attire, she decided to get dolled up in what can only be described as an “out there” gown for her.

The white and baby blue gown with its beaded high-neck piece and tulle is definitely out of the ordinary for the former First Lady. But it actually compliments her hair, with the auburn updo stand out next to her paler complexion.

Betty Ford STunned During A Royal Dinner

Betty Ford STunned During A Royal Dinner
Nik Wheeler/Corbis via Getty Images
Nik Wheeler/Corbis via Getty Images

During a white-tie dinner at the White House in 1976 with honorary guests Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, former First Lady Betty Ford pulled out what might look like a familiar dress. Designed by Frankie Welch, Ford wore this pale-green sequined chiffon gown to more than one state dinner.

Embroidered with a chrysanthemum pattern and paired with dazzling earrings, this particular dress has since been donated to the Smithsonian National Museum of American History as her inaugural gown, even though Ford didn’t necessarily have a typical inauguration.

Grace Coolidge Brought The Roaring ’20s To First Lady Fashion

Grace Coolidge Brought The Roaring '20s To First Lady Fashion
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Library of Congress/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images

Being the First Lady during the roaring ’20s must have been very difficult for former First Lady Grace Coolidge, as she had to watch what she wore to various events. But, somehow, she made the fashion of the time work!

Here, she is seen wearing what can only be described as a stunning floor-length flapper dress, complete with beaded detailing and embroidery throughout the design. She even completed the look with a velvet and fur cape and long beaded necklace — forever the First Lady flapper!

Nancy Reagan Making History In Red

Nancy Reagan Making History In Red
David Hume Kennerly/Getty Images
David Hume Kennerly/Getty Images

If there was one thing former First Lady Nancy Reagan contributed to fashion, it was taking the concept of a simple red dress and making it iconic. While greeting the press on May 7, 1981, she is seen adorning one such red dress. While it might not be simple, Reagan definitely made it a statement piece.

Complete with puffy shoulder sleeves, a cinched waist, and an accent bow, this red floor-length gown does everything and more to complement the delicate frame of the former First Lady. The press even dubbed her preferred shade “Reagan Red.”

Jackie Kennedy In This Black And Yellow Chez Ninon

Jackie Kennedy In This Black And Yellow Chez Ninon
Kennedy Library Archives/Newsmakers
Kennedy Library Archives/Newsmakers

On September 19, 1961, Jackie Kennedy once again stepped out looking gorgeous. During the White House state dinner honoring President Manuel Prado of Peru, Jackie wore a black silk velvet and Chinese yellow silk satin evening dress by Chez Ninon, paired with elbow-high gloves and a stunning accent bow on the skirt.

As of 2001, this particular Jackie O look is actually on display at the “Jacqueline Kennedy: The White House Years” exhibition at the Costume Institue of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Lady Bird Johnson In Red With Multiple Pearl Accessories

Lady Bird Johnson In Red With Multiple Pearl Accessories
Horst P. Horst/Conde Nast via Getty Images
Horst P. Horst/Conde Nast via Getty Images

Before Lyndon B. Johnson’s election, Lady Bird Johnson was known for wearing what he called “muley” colors, aka browns and grays. Once elected, the former First Lady changed her color palette to include vibrant colors, such as yellows, greens, and the occasional orange.

Here, she found an even middle ground, going with a wine red evening gown with a delicate accent bow in the middle. It isn’t as eye-catching as some of her other gowns, but this is elegant in an entirely different way, especially with the multiple strands of pearls around her neck and think gold bracelet accessory.

The Mamie Look

mamie
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Getty Images

Mamie Eisenhower’ss look typically had a full-skirted dress, with lots of accessories like charm bracelets, pearls, little hats, and bobbed, banged hair. In 1953, she wore an inaugural gown designed by Nettie Rosenstein. The gown was incredibly striking and was a pink peau de soie gown. It was hand-embroidered with more than 2,000 rhinestones.

Mamie paired it with gloves and jewelry by Trifari, a beaded purse by Judith Leiber, and shoes by Delman. The dress remains on display at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History’s collection of inaugural gowns, and is one of the most popular. Mamie’s inaugural dress made that particular shade a pink a very popular color.

Jackie Kennedy

jackie
Getty Images
Getty Images

Jackie Kennedy is one of the most famous first ladies of all time, and she is equally well known for her fashion. When she met JFK he was already a congressman and obviously on his way to doing great things. The two were considered a very beautiful and fashionable couple, and among the youngest to enter office into the White House. JFK took office in 1960, and the nation was already becoming one that was centered around television and movie culture.

Jackie became one of the first First Ladies whose entire look was consistently dissected. Her fashion choices were a definite hit and she became a major trendsetter internationally. She had one main designer whom she worked with, the now famed Oleg Cassini.

Jackie Kennedy’s Last-Minute Wedding Gown

jackie wedding
Bachrach/Getty Images
Bachrach/Getty Images

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.

The Style Of Betty Ford

The Style of Betty Ford
Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

In many cases, the style of first ladies is often overlooked and the focus is shifted to their extracurricular activities. In the case of Betty Ford, she was a feminist and the founder of the Betty Ford Center which is also one of the most popular clinics ever. Her stylish ways should also get recognition as well, however.

Her looks were something to draw inspiration from. The style of her outfits was not too complex but the simpleness was something anyone could look to when in doubt for their outfit for the day. Standing alongside Gerald Ford, she made him look that much better.

Betty Ford Didn’t Wear White At Her Second Wedding

second wedding
CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images
CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images

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.”

Nancy Reagan Hid A Baby Bump Under Her Wedding Gown

Nancy Reagan Hid A Baby Bump Under Her Wedding Gown
CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images
CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images

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.

Laura Bush

Laura Bush
PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP via Getty Images
PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP via Getty Images

Laura Bush is the wife of George W. Bush. For the first inauguration, Laura wore a red-crystal embroidered gown designed by a Texas, similar to her predecessor Hillary. She also wore pearls as a nod to her mother-in-law and former First Lady Barbara.

After Bush was elected a second time, the nation was in a totally different post 9/11 period. Laura took another note from Hillary and wore Oscar De La Renta. She wore an embroidered ice blue and silver tulle gown encrusted with Austrian crystals. Clearly, fashion knows no political bounds and it doesn’t matter what political party you might affiliate with if you like good design.

Elizabeth Wallace Truman

truman
PhotoQuest/Getty Images
PhotoQuest/Getty Images

Elizabeth Truman was married to President Harry Truman. The two had known each other since they attended school together as children. This First Lady was completely disinterested in politics and the political scene.

Although she was reluctant about the role, she was the dutiful wife and hostess. When her husband first took office, it was after the death of FDR and the country was in the midst of a world war so it was exactly a carefree gleeful time. Allegedly, her gown for the inaugural ball was designed by a woman named Madame Pola. She chose a dark gown with white accenting and adorned it with a fur cape.

Rosalynn Carter

carter
Getty Images
Getty Images

Rosalynn Carter is the wife of President Jimmy Carter. At the time of his inauguration the United States was not doing well economically, so instead of a fancy ball the President opted to host something they called the “people’s inaugural parties,” and offered tickets at the affordable price of $25. Rosalynn actually chose to recycle a gown she had previously worn when President Carter was the governor.

She wore a sleeveless blue chiffon gown with gold trim. While she was attempting to publicly make a statement that the president wouldn’t be lavishing themselves in riches while the rest of the nation was suffering, the move did not publicly go over well.

Barbara Bush

Barbara Bush
Wally McNamee/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images
Wally McNamee/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images

Barbara Bush was the wife of George H.W. Bush. She was already a bit older when her husband took office. Her husband had already been the Vice President with Reagan so she was quite accustomed to the White House way of doing things by then. Her inaugural gown was designed to make her appear more youthful. She wore an Arnold Scassi in royal blue velvet and satin.

Scassi had been designing for the first ladies for many years all the way back to Mamie Eisenhower, so perhaps this was a deliberate choice by Barbara to signal that she and her husband were definitely a traditional couple. She also chose to wear pearls instead of diamonds. Barbara was in turn dubbed America’s “most glamorous grandmother.”

Frances Folsom Cleveland Preston

preston
Underwood Archives/Getty Images
Underwood Archives/Getty Images

Frances Folsom Cleveland Preston was a trendsetter of her time. She had appeared on the covers of Leslie’s and Harper’s and back then, both huge publications, so it slingshotted her into the trendsetter conversation. Even at her wedding, the Washington Post had high praise of her.

“The bride wore an enchanting white dress of ivory satin, simply garnished on the high corsage with India muslin crossed in Grecian folds and carried in exquisite falls of simplicity over the petticoat,” reported the Washington Post. “The orange blossom garniture, commencing upon the veil in a superb coronet, is continued throughout the costume with artistic skill.”

Ellen Arthur

arthur
Horst P. Horst/Conde Nast via Getty Images
Horst P. Horst/Conde Nast via Getty Images

In Ellen Arthur’s case, her fashion was not highlighted. During President Arthur’s administration, the times were different so there was not that much of an emphasis on the first ladies so, in turn, President Arthur was the focal point of the fashion in the relationship. And not to toot his horn, there was a good reason for this because he had style.

In fact, the president’s stylish clothes were always an object of great fascination to the public and media. It was as if Ellen’s fashion sense was non-existent. Who knows, maybe she liked it that way in the first place.

Pat Nixon Snuck In Some Trends

Pat Nixon Snuck In Some Trends
Horst P. Horst/Conde Nast via Getty Images
Horst P. Horst/Conde Nast via Getty Images

Even though her husband had a lot on his plate during her time as the first lady, it would be asinine to ignore the subtle fashion styles that Pat Nixon would wear. Imagine Nixon as the person in school that wouldn’t stand out but when she kept up with the Jones’ she would demand a compliment by not even asking.

As you see in the image above, she is wearing a mini skirt (on the right) that was popular during those times. Like we said, it wasn’t often that she would reflect current fashion trends but when she did, she made it look good.

Martha Dandridge Custis Washington

Martha Dandridge Custis Washington
Stock Montage/Getty Images
Stock Montage/Getty Images

As the first, first lady of the nation, you can expect that there were many challenges for her and her husband, George Washington. She had a gentle demeanor and that may not have quieted the people but by the end of her time as the first lady, she had set the tone.

One thing that she had down pat was her fashion. Because she was one of the richest women in that era, she had her pick of the crop when it came to clothes. In 2009, Mount Vernon displayed her royal purple silk wedding shoes and that made opinions of her jump from matronly to slightly daring.

Eleanor Roosevelt’s Wedding Dress

Eleanor Roosevelt's Wedding Dress
Getty Images
Getty Images

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.

Barbara Bush Wore Her Mother-In-Law’s Veil

Barbara Bush Wore Her Mother-In-Law's Veil
CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images
CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images

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.

Grace Coolidge’s Favorite Fashion Accessory: Her Dogs

dog
Library of Congress/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images
Library of Congress/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images

Grace Coolidge fell in love with collies after watching one of them perform in a circus. In 1922, she adopted one named Rob Roy, who lived until 1928 and spent time at the White House with the first family. Grace posed in many photos with their dogs, including this one with their Boston bulldog named Beans.

Her husband, President Calvin Coolidge, was also a fan of dogs. He is quoted as saying: “Any man who does not like dogs and want them about does not deserve to be in the White House.” They also acquired lions, a wallaby, a pygmy hippo, and a raccoon.

Melania Trump

BRITAIN-US-ROYALS-POLITICS-DIPLOMACY
CHRIS JACKSON/AFP via Getty Images
CHRIS JACKSON/AFP via Getty Images

Melania Trump is the former First Lady and the wife of Donald Trump. Before meeting her husband, Melania was a fashion model, and she wore lots of amazing outfits (and some controversial ones) during her time as First Lady.

Obviously, Melania is a fan of dressing up. She became known for wearing lots of designer brands with sharp silhouettes, usually paired with beautiful and luxurious accessories. This red gown was worn while on an official visit to the UK.

Laura Bush Liked To Keep Quiet

Laura Bush Liked To Keep Quiet
Pam Francis/Liaison/Getty Images
Pam Francis/Liaison/Getty Images

There is a saying in fashion and it also applies to many other things. The saying is “less is more.” This is the mentality that Laura Bush had when it came to her clothes. Sure, she could have been the belle of the ball every time she stepped foot somewhere but she didn’t get down that way. Dallas fashion designer spoke about Bush after he said that Melania Trump got it right at the inauguration.

“What was wonderful about Mrs. Bush was she was always very conscientious about not wanting clothes to speak loudly,” Faircloth said. “She has so many things she felt were more important.”