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Monday, December 6th 2010

4:55 PM

White House Fashion

There's a lot of buzz in the press right now about Michelle Obama and what she will be wearing for the Inaugural festivities.  There are numerous blogs (one of which has turned out to be run by a big advertising agency) chronicling her style and trying to guess what (or rather, who) she'll be wearing on the Big Day. 

Americans have been fascinated by First Lady fashion for many years: the Smithsonian Institution has had a First Lady exhibit since 1914.  I loved the old exhibit, with mannequins representing each first lady lined up in a chronological row.   The newly reopened exhibition, First Ladies at the Smithsonian, is an abbreviated version.

Fellow fashion history blogger Hollis at Past Perfect Vintage, has been doing daily features on First Lady fashion. It's a great series, with a few surprises.  I mean, who knew Helen Taft was such a fashion queen?  She's yet to feature Laura Bush, who isn't exactly known as a slave to fashion, but who got it totally and completely right with the Oscar de la Renta dress and coat ensemble she wore to the Oath of Office ceremony and parade in 2005.

In her entry on Jackie Kennedy, Hollis shows the cover of this book:

A friend of mine found this book in a thrift store she works in and thought I might like to sell it.  It took only one quick look to know that this one was a keeper.  The book was published as the companion book to an exhibition with the same name at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2001.

What's so special about this particular book?  It takes each individual dress or suit, has a beautiful photograph of it, and then tells the "wearing history" of each, along with vintage photos of Mrs. Kennedy wearing the garment.  It tells the designer of each, and how the dress came to be owned by Mrs. Kennedy.  It shows how Oleg Cassini took the ideas she liked from French couture (especially Givenchy) and adapted them for the First Lady.

It's a wealth of information about this period in fashion history - the last gasp of elegance before Youthquake and Mary Quant converted the world to Mod.  And the book is surprisingly inexpensive.  Buy it at Amazon for less than $20, or take a chance on getting it on eBay for even less.

Jacqueline Kennedy : The White House Years: Selections from the John F. Kennedy Library and Museum

2 Additional Thoughts.

Posted by Couture Allure:

I have this book, and agree with you. It's wonderful. I saw the exhibit at the Kennedy Library in Boston and loved that too.
Thursday, January 8th 2009 @ 5:48 AM

Posted by Tara:

Thanks so much for commenting on my blog...so I could, in turn, discover your wonderful blog! I am adding you to my blogroll.
Wednesday, January 7th 2009 @ 9:53 AM