Inaugural Gowns From Edith Roosevelt to Michelle Obama: A Fashion Analysis
I feel very scared, and very sad about the impending Trump presidency. I don’t know how to respond to it, or what I should be saying. This, and motherhood, are my only realities right now, and it is a very sad situation. Mostly sad for the state of this blog, which is becoming fucking boring and repetitive.
I thought a lot about a post I could write that would respond to tomorrow’s inauguration. In truth, I didn’t want to spend a lot of time on it because when the baby is not awake, I have an hour to myself before I have to go to sleep. I chose a blog post over a shower tonight, and I’m honestly not sure that’s the right decision.
I was going to do a fashion analysis of Michelle Obama’s best looks, but Jesus, I’d need someone to pay me money to do that kind of image research. I was going to do a fashion analysis of Melania Trump next because there are far fewer pictures of her. Also, I don’t hold anything against her, she’s just a girl from Slovakia looking for a rich husband – which girl from Slovakia couldn’t say the same? I know she’s from Slovenia, what’s the difference.
When I sat down tonight, and thought, what is the laziest possible option on the eve of an impending national nightmare, I thought, “Oh, I could do a fashion analysis of inaugural gowns.” So here they are, chronologically since Edith Roosevelt, the wife of Teddy.
Theodore Roosevelt doesn’t look so fat here, but I think he got super fat later.
This was his second wife, she was hot.
Oh maybe it was Taft who was the fattie.
Helen Taft looks like she got attacked by birds in her inaugural gown. Either that or her husband sat on her.
Oh the latter, definitely the latter.
Woodrow Wilson’s inauguration looks like Trump’s current day cabinet picks plus the gigolo they hired to take care of Sonny Perdue at the afterparty.
The one in the military uniform, duh.
Yo, who knew Woodrow Wilson was a cradle robber? His wife Edith was very young when he married her. I can’t find a picture of her until Kennedy’s inauguration.
I love presidential history but being a woman myself, I always find it interesting to study the Women of the White House as well. I am curious to know who your favorite First Ladies are and if you have any suggestions for FLOTUS biographies to read. I hope you are enjoying this holiday season!
Thank you! We’ve had some remarkable First Ladies dating back to the very beginning of our country, and I hate to overlook some deserving women like Abigail Adams, Dolley Madison, and Eleanor Roosevelt, but my two favorite First Ladies are Lady Bird Johnson and Betty Ford. Both women were indispensable to the success of their husbands (although that’s a common thread in the history of First Families) and played inordinate roles in public life while living in the White House.
Like Eleanor Roosevelt, Lady Bird Johnson and Betty Ford recognized the power in their unique position. They had the ear of the President every night and the eyes of the nation throughout their family’s time in the White House. While most modern First Ladies find an issue that they want to shine a spotlight on, Lady Bird Johnson and Betty Ford revolutionized the role of the President’s spouse, becoming activists in support of the issues they believed in. Those issues were not always popular, and they didn’t always coincide with the policies of their husbands. Controversies which could easily be avoided – and which Presidential aides often pushed back against due to potential political traps – never frightened Lady Bird Johnson or Betty Ford from taking a stand on behalf of what they believed. Lady Bird didn’t worry about campaigning for her husband and LBJ’s Civil Rights legislation while facing hostile crowds in the Deep South. Betty Ford didn’t hesitate to publicly support abortion rights or the Equal Rights Amendment (despite strong opposition from leading politicians in her husband’s party), or reveal when she underwent a mastectomy and treatment for breast cancer. Later, Betty Ford publicly revealed an addiction to painkillers and alcohol, and opened the Betty Ford Center after leaving the White House.
Today’s #ElectionCollection challenge is #FirstLadies!
Betty Ford became First Lady in 1974, but she soon became known to many as First Mama. By 1975, her support for women’s rights, her candor about breast cancer, and her frank humor earned her a public approval rating of 75%. The former Martha Graham dancer-turned-FLOTUS was also a CB radio enthusiast who broadcast from the White House with the handle First Mama.
During the 1976 Presidential election campaign, Betty Ford made several speaking tours throughout the east and midwest. Her popularity was reflected on lapel buttons that proclaimed “Betty’s Husband For President!”
Here are four examples from the 1976 campaign cheering on First Mama from @fordlibrarymuseum.
As a Whovian, I think it is truly a blessing that Carole Ann Ford, the very first companion, the very first woman in Doctor Who, is still alive. I also think it is the most blatantly wasted opportunity that she hasn’t been brought back to the series, even if it’s just for one episode. I want Susan back. I want Carole back.
President Ford chats with Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis at an intermission reception during a “Bicentennial Salute to the Performing Arts” at the
John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, 1/25/1976. (White House photograph A8024-23A)
Put on your most stylish holiday clothes because Tim Gunn and Genevieve Gorder are at the National Archives tonight!
You can watch live on our YouTube channel at 7 pm ET.
Presented in partnership with the White House Historical Association.
Image from the Ford Presidential Library. President Gerald R. Ford and First Lady Betty Ford pose in front of Christmas tree in the Blue Room of the White House, 12/17/1974.
A week after the President gave his first press conference Betty Ford held one of her own. She fielded questions in the State Dining Room for 25 minutes on September 4, 1974.
Although she had interacted informally with the press since entering the White House, Mrs. Ford took a step many former First Ladies had not by making herself available to the media in an official press conference. Around 150 reporters and photographers attended the session.
During the press conference Mrs. Ford answered questions about her family’s transition to the White House, the impact of the economy on her family’s budget, and the possibility of President Ford running in the 1976 election. She spoke openly on several topics that would come up throughout the administration, including her support of the Equal Rights Amendment and women’s engagement in civic affairs. “I think that by becoming very active in politics, which I deeply encourage, that they will play a great role in the future of our country,” she said.
Reporters asked her about her role as First Lady as well. Mrs. Ford expressed her interest in supporting the arts, particularly in education, and working with underprivileged and retarded children. She also responded to a question regarding the kind of “footprint” she wanted to make during her time in the White House: “I would like to be remembered in a very kind way; also as a constructive wife of a President. I do not expect to come anywhere near living up to those First Ladies who have gone before me. They have all done a great job, and I admire them a great deal and it is only my ambition to come close to them.”
Betty Ford hosted a Christmas party for the children of the foreign diplomats who were living in Washington, DC, on December 14, 1976. The party was an annual event coordinated through THIS, The Hospitality and Information Service, a volunteer organization that helped Diplomatic families.
For that year’s festivities she invited the cast of Sesame Street to entertain the more than 500 young guests from 87 countries. In addition to Big Bird and his friends Susan (Loretta Long), Maria (Sonia Manzano), David (Northern J. Calloway), and Mr. Hooper (Will Lee), Santa Claus also made an appearance.
Images: Betty Ford and Children watch the Cast of Sesame Street Performing at the Diplomatic Children’s Christmas Party in the East Room, 12/14/1976 (White House photograph B2514-22A); Betty Ford with Sesame Street Cast Members and Santa Claus at the Diplomatic Children’s Christmas Party, 12/14/1976 (White House photograph B2515-20A)
President and Mrs. Ford began their 1975
ten-day visit of Eastern Europe in Germany. President and Mrs. Watler Scheel of
Germany greeted them at the Villa Hammerschmidt on July
27, 1975, and Mrs. Scheel presented this gift to the Fords.
white china plate features gold etched edges and open lattice work around the
rim. The center of the plate displays a hand-painted fruit design with four smaller
fruits surrounding it. This elegant gift is housed in its original box.
While Betty Ford
utilized her time as First Lady to fight for women’s equality and the passage
of the Equal Rights Amendment, German First Lady Mildred Scheel used her public
role to advocate the fight on cancer. She raised awareness on different types
of cancers, collected donations, and created the German Cancer Aid. Long-time friend
Andy Warhol even created one of his signature silk-screen portraits of her to
raise funds for her organization. Both women went above and beyond in their
roles as First Ladies and made lasting public health and social impacts on
Image: German First Lady Mildred Scheel greets Betty Ford outside of the Villa Hammerschmidt in Bonn, Germany, prior to a luncheon on July 27, 1975 (A5911-26).
Betty Ford planted a tree on the North Lawn of the White House in commemoration of the American Bicentennial on October 20, 1975. The seedling had been specially cultivated from an American Elm tree planted by President John Quincy Adams, which was the oldest and tallest tree on the White House grounds.
Image: Betty Ford plants a seedling from the John Quincy Adams American Elm tree on the North Lawn of the White House, 10/20/1975 (White House photograph A6967-08A)