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First Lady Fashionistas

The President may be the Commander-in-Chief, but since the turn of the century, the US has looked to the First Lady as Commander-in-Chic. This wasn’t always the case – it could be said that the progress of media led us here. Sure, maybe Mary Todd Lincoln had her own style, but we didn’t hear much about presidential wives until radio became a thing, and when television got to us the influence truly began.

Since then the First Lady has become like a celebrity (it really began with Jackie Kennedy) and people love to hear about what the First Lady is saying, doing, and yes, wearing. After all, fashion can be powerful and political. We all notice clothes and whether most of us believe it or not, we tend to make judgement based on outerwear. Even before television made it a nationwide phenomenon, fashionable first wives have used their styles to both relate to the American people and influence them. It goes all the way back to the 1700’s.

So, you may be wondering, who are our most fashionable First Ladies? Wonder no more! Here are my picks for Best Dressed Former First Ladies (Sorry, Melania).


6. Pretty in Pink: Mamie Eisenhower

You know that whole ridiculous “rule” that says blue is for boys and pink is for girls? Well, it’s a bit of a modern invention. It didn’t really start becoming a thing until after World War 2 when the baby boom began, and marketers responded. One woman in particular, however, really owned that color and showed women how fashionable it could be in a changing America. That woman was Mamie Eisenhower, wife of President Dwight D. Eisenhower. Mamie was known for rocking pink gowns, dresses, jackets, and accessories more often than not, and it made her beloved among the American people with many women in the 50’s following her style.

Recommended Style

Our Velour Luxe Crew in Blush is a perfect way to channel Mamie.


5. Simply Elegant: Eleanor Roosevelt

Eleanor Roosevelt was a trendsetter and a fierce woman in all the best ways. She’s known for being one of the first presidential wives to really come into the public spotlight, due in no small part to her worldwide humanitarian aid efforts. Aside from being superwoman, Eleanor was fashionable too. She liked to keep it down to earth and elegant, and she especially loved that awesome floppy hat she was often photographed in. What few people know is that Eleanor Roosevelt also ran a craft society with many other women, where she made fashionable pieces that were described as feminine, luxurious, but somehow simple. Leave it to Eleanor.

Recommended Style

Feminine, luxurious, with breathtaking simplicity? Well that’s our Enchanted Romance Embroidered Robe.  


4. DIY Glam: Rosalynn Carter

Rosalynn Carter must have been a breath of fresh air. In a place with a history of tradition and high society lifestyles, Rosalynn Carter, wife of President Jimmy Carter, came into the White House with a do-it-yourself, grass roots mindset. She was a kind woman and a frugal one, always very prudent even in her and her husband’s position (she has the strength I couldn’t!) She brought her own sewing machine into the White House and was known for making her own dresses, which, if this photo is anything to go on, were absolutely gorgeous and glamorous. Rock on, Rosalynn.

Recommended Style

Maybe Mrs. Carter wouldn’t be caught wearing these, but you can certainly channel her DIY can-do attitude like a Rockstar in our Rockstar Fishnet Tights Our Velour Luxe Crew in Blush is a perfect way to channel Mamie.


3. Fab Flaunting: Betty Ford

There are some who say that President Gerald Ford’s presidency would have been more of a footnote in our history were it not for his wonderful, memorable wife, Betty Ford. Betty Ford was a force of personality, having once been a model and a clothing buyer she was well versed in fashion. She combined styles with her well-known, flamboyant and often times adorably eccentric personality, resulting in unique and inspired gowns and outfits. Whether she was posing with a grin on a table or posing with her husband for a press photo, Betty Ford always brought it and kept the public loving every minute of it.

Recommended Style

We like to think Betty would approve of our Crushed Velvet Leggings.


2. Keeping it Real: Michelle Obama

Michelle Obama is up there with Rosalynn Carter in terms of keeping it real. Throughout the presidency of her husband, Barack Obama, Michelle became an icon of fashion and lifestyle, simply by being herself. One memorable moment is during the 2008 Presidential Election, when it was revealed the Republican Party spent a ton of money on a new wardrobe and style upgrade for Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin, Michelle Obama appeared on a talk show wearing normal clothes she bought online – some J. Crew being probably the only brand that could be considered “posh” (which it isn’t). This pretty much sealed her position as a woman who could better connect with the public at large, and one who could do it better than many First Ladies have before her.

Recommended Style

Keeping it simple, professional, and chic is what Michelle is about, so we think our Bootcut Chino Pants Leggings are perfect.


1. Queen of Camelot: Jackie Kennedy

Oh, Jackie. Perhaps the first real celebrity First Lady, Jackie Kennedy (and later Jackie Onassis) enraptured the public unlike any other First Lady who came before or would come after. The advent of television meant the public had access to her in ways other First Ladies had not had to deal with. It wasn’t just her marriage to one of the youngest and most charismatic presidents we’ve ever had, John F. Kennedy, but also her own beauty, her poise, the strength of her personality, and of course, her fashion sense. Jackie Kennedy has long been a style icon, bringing the simple, chic, and often elegant fashions of New England and Cape Cod to the masses. She had a charm and charisma about her that became legendary, and a true desire to ingratiate herself among the public. She was so determined to do this that when she was told wearing fine Parisian and European fashions was out of reach of most Americans, she demanded information on American designers so she could help spread homegrown styles.

Recommended Style

With a hint of chunky knit that’s very reminiscent of New England prep fashion, our LoungeLife Marshmallow Pullover Top is perfect for relaxing on a Cape Code beach.


Honorable Mention: Dolley Madison

I’d be ashamed of myself if I didn’t mention the lovely lady at the top of our post.  That’s none other than Dolley Madison, wife of our second president James Madison, and a woman ahead of her time. Dolley was doing the celebrity First Lady thing almost 150 years before the ladies on our list, and she used fashion to charm and influence within early American politics. She was known as a fabulous hostess and was said  to know when to turn up the style or tone it down to ingratiate her and her husband’s guests. In the late 1700’s Dolley was rocking exotic outfits that included Parisian gowns and turbans – styles that would not really enter the mainstream until the 1920’s brought us flappers – proving just how ahead of her time she was. She even went for theme, wearing dresses that invoked the fashion of ancient Greece in order to emphasize the roots and democratic foundation of the new American government. Dolley was one smart cookie, and we salute her.

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