First ladies of Fashion

Anna Fickenscher

For as long as we have had a president, we have had a first lady, and as long as we have had first ladies, they have had styles of their own. From Martha Washington all the way to Laura Bush, each first lady has given something to the fashion world.

Some first ladies were inspirational, while others could be counted on to be nothing short of a fashion disaster. With the presidential election less than a week away, here’s a look at some of the best and worst contributions to fashion made by past first ladies.

Whether you know it or not, many of the trends seen around campus originated with our former first ladies. Back in the ’80s, Barbara Bush brought us pearl necklaces. It was a rarity to see her out and about without her trademark strands. We may have updated the look a little, making the pearls bigger and adding fun touches like colored ribbon instead of a clasp, but the original Mrs. Bush helped popularize this classy and fantastic look.

Nancy Reagan was a fashion icon not only during her husband’s presidency but also in the years following. She brought big name designers, such as Oscar de la Renta (who is still a go-to designer for first ladies), into the White House and always looked poised and well-dressed.

Jackie Kennedy, better known as Jackie O, was perhaps the single most influential “First Lady of Fashion.” President Kennedy’s years in office were often referred to as the Camelot years, and if he was King Arthur, she was the perfect Guinevere. From the boxy Chanel jackets to the big sunglasses to the pillbox hats, Jackie O embodied grace and style. As her husband ushered in a new era, she stood beside him, looking like the ideal first lady. Women everywhere have looked to Jackie O as a style icon long after she left the White House and continue to do so.

With the good comes the bad, and with the bad comes Hillary Clinton. Although her husband was one of our more well-liked presidents, it seemed that not even the power of the presidency could get poor Hillary some style. She became known for her horrible pantsuits, and it seemed she never met a floral pattern she didn’t like. Unfortunately for her, the ’90s were not the best fashion era we’ve had, and Hillary wore every bad trend there was. From polka dots to stripes to way-too-high-waisted pants, Hillary never even stood a shot at making it off the worst list.

In less than a week, this country will be welcoming at least one, if not two, new women into the White House. Cindy McCain, Michelle Obama and Sarah Palin all have different styles, and from their campaign trail styles, it does not look like any of the three will be joining the worst dressed list. But will their personal styles be distinctive enough to earn them a place in the first lady fashion hall of fame? Only time will tell.