The Best Of First Lady Inaugural Fashion & Beauty

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Of all the historic moments that go down on US Presidential Inauguration Day, one of the most anticipated is that first glimpse of the new First Lady as she steps out in her Inauguration gown. Here, we round up some of the best First Lady Inaugural looks over the years.

Of all the outfits she might wear during her tenure in the White House, the Inauguration gown counts as one of the most important – and one of her most challenging wardrobe dilemmas. Its importance is such that the gown is usually donated to the Smithsonian and preserved for history. There are also other weighty issues attached to the gown which the First Lady must consider when deciding what to wear. Not only does this mark her first official outing in her role as First Lady but the gown will also convey what style statement she might make throughout her years in the White House.

Michelle Obama chose the young New York-based designer Jason Wu for both her Inauguration Balls. Her choice catapulted him into the international limelight and his career skyrocketed. She continued championing young American designers but also became known for not being afraid to mix more inexpensive items from Gap or J.Crew in her public wardrobe – surely a first for a First Lady.

Other notions the First Lady must pay attention regarding her inauguration gown is the mood of the times. For Lady Bird Johnson back in 1965, she was entering the White House after the horrific assassination of John F. Kennedy. The mood of the country was sombre but should she have worn black? Instead, she savvily chose to wear a bright yellow gown. The colour was like a beacon of hope and optimism and the message to the nation was perhaps: America will be okay. Other First Ladies like Roslyn Carter back in the 1970s during the oil crisis chose not to have a new gown made, instead choosing one from her existing wardrobe. Perhaps it was a signal to the nation that they will not have a wasteful presidency.

So with such scrutiny and expectations, all eyes will be on Melania Trump on Inauguration day on her choice of attire. A former model with a lithe body that seems to prefer luxury European designers, hers will be a wardrobe that will be heavily scrutinized over the coming years.

We round up some of the best First Lady looks, beauty and fashion, below.


FASHION: Curiously, for her second inauguration outfit, First Lady Michelle Obama choose a gown by the same designer who did her first – Jason Wu. With four years under belt as First Lady already, she became known as a champion of young designers and it was hoped that she would have cast the same spell on another unknown or young designer.

BEAUTY: The First Lady’s hair and make up speak volumes to her modern sensibilities and innate sense of style. The extreme fringe and shag cut, coupled with the smokey eye and pale lip brought a “Mod” look to her slate of inaugural balls.

FASHION: The First Ladies preceding her favoured established Seventh Avenue designers like Oscar de la Renta but Michelle Obama’s first day as First Lady signalled a new sort of establishment. She became not just a role model, but her fashion choices were not so much aspirational but reflected a style statement that most American women could relate to or easily mimic. She mixed young designers with more established ones and also embraced items from such mainstream mall stores like Old Navy, Gap and Banana Republic. She knew what suited her body type and her look – even in her most glamourous moments – seemed effortless.

First, her first walk after the President was sworn in, she went with an outfit from Isobel Toledo – a designer that was known more to fashion insiders than the nation at large.  The lemony lace dress and matching coat was bright and cheery and seemed to signal the gust of fresh air about to burst through the White House.

BEAUTY: Michelle Obama’s expression during her first walk as FLOTUS in 2009 shows the joy and pride on her face – and her natural looks are first and foremost.

FASHION: For her first Inauguration Ball gown, she went with a white gown by Jason Wu. The colour and style was surprising for most because it looked akin to a wedding dress. But it also came to symbolize that there was now a relatively young married couple in the White House with young children, and white was perhaps indicative of a fresh new start in Washington.

BEAUTY: A more natural hair and make-up look was the choice during Michelle Obama’s first inaugural ball – strong brows and a pale pink lip were the perfect compliment to her standout gown.

FASHION: Laura Bush did not rock the boat when it came to her wardrobe. She was always impeccably turned out, favouring bright colours and the most classic of lady-like accessories – pearls.

BEAUTY: In 2001, Laura Bush was determined to be herself – a no-nonsense Texan – and her short feathered haircut is a low-maintenance look that was glammed up with a red lip.

FASHION: Back in 2001, Laura Bush went with a magnificent red gown by designer Michael Faircloth, a relative unknown outside of his home state of Texas. Not only did the red showed her patriotism but it endeared her to many that she choose to support a fashion designer from her home state instead of the American fashion hub, New York.

BEAUTY: First Lady Laura Bush took her day look and made it work for the night by deepening the red shad of lipstick to compliment her bold gown.

FASHION: Hillary Clinton made no bones about the fact that she would never be regarded as a fashionista. Even as a First Lady – before her trail blazing campaign for Presidency last year – she was favouring bold colours for her practical suitings and coats.

BEAUTY: With her hair tucked up under her matching hat, Hillary Clinton’s expertly tweezed brows, black eye liner and red lip added sophistication and glamour to her suit.

FASHION: In 1993, Hillary Clinton looked like a glamour goddess in the rich purple gown by designer Sarah Phillips. She had discovered the designer in a small boutique in Little Rock, Arkansas. It drew kudos from many that she went with an unknown.

BEAUTY: The 90s was all about minimalism in makeup as well as fashion. Hillary Clinton paired her sophisticated up-do with a nude palate that suits her complexion and allowed her gown to steal the show.

FASHION: Nancy Reagan was a First Lady that loved the colour red and often featured it in her wardrobe. For the walk-about, she looked striking in the crisp January sunshine in the luscious red coat and matching hat.

BEAUTY: An actress first, Nancy Reagan knew her best angle and also what make up looked best on her and on camera. For President Reagan’s first inauguration in 1981, she chose a lipstick shade that matched perfectly with her hat and coat creating a seamless and sophisticated look.

FASHION: A First Lady who unabashedly loved fashion, Nancy Reagan, back in 1981, wore a white gown by one of her favourite designers, the legendary American James Galanos. Sparkly with beading, the gown was accessorized by opera length white gloves and seemed an ode to the glamourous era of Hollywood of yesteryear – of which both she and her husband was very much part of.

BEAUTY:  She may have been born in New York, but Nancy Reagan spent much of her life in Hollywood and she knew how to step up the glamour a few notches. The soft upswept hair showed off her fine bone structure while her make up was subtle and strike the right note for the occasion.

FASHION: Rosalyn Carter’s outfit for the walk-about on Inauguration day still looks modern and contemporary today. This simple, streamlined outfit confirms her practical and unfussy spirit.

BEAUTY: Rosalyn Carter let her southern belle charm shine in 1977, a glowing complexion with a slash of lipstick was all she needed.

FASHION: Back in the 1977, Rosalynn Carter wore a gold embroidered gown that was already in her wardrobe and originally purchased off-the-rack. With the country in a recession at the time, she won points with the nation over this choice.

BEAUTY: The First Lady’s red lip, black eyeliner and well-groomed brows were the perfect expression for the mid-70s. More elegant than hippie but still not overpowering.

FASHION: Perhaps one of the most glamourous First Ladies, Jackie Kennedy, merely 32 years old at the time, was uncannily media savvy when it came to her wardrobe. It was said that she knew what would look great in a photo and on television and would dress accordingly to stand out in a crowd. Thus, she helped designed this cape and dress she wore to the Inauguration Ball in 1961.

BEAUTY: No one rocked the bouffant better than Jackie Kennedy. This was the start of FLOTUS as an icon of fashion and beauty. Simply perfect.

FASHION: Like a belle right out of Gone With The Wind, Mary-Todd Lincoln showed grace, poise and demonstrated that even way back in 1861, First Ladies, dressed to the nines for the Inauguration Ball, confirming it’s not a modern day phenomenon for our fashion-obsessed society.

BEAUTY: We couldn’t resist including this portrait of Mary-Todd Lincoln; lipstick and rouge were not appropriate for a First Lady in 1861. But a chic bun adorned with flowers gave her a regal air that suited her husband’s office.