White House photo by Susan Sterner; Design by Oscar de la Renta
We have to credit The Daily Beast and editor Hailey Eber for having good foresight into the inaugural gown mania. Just days after the election, and a good month before the WWD sketches appeared, The Daily Beast debuted the results of "The Ball Gown Challenge". They had briefed former Project Runway contestants to design an inaugural gown that was "at once stylish, patriotic and appropriately thrifty for the recession" using only Laura Bush’s 2005 Inaugural Ball dress, an American flag, burlap sacks and $10 worth of trim.
We must admit, the first question we had to ask was: What did Laura Bush wear to the 2005 Inaugural Ball? Though surely we had seen the gown before, it had failed to leave a strong impression. After some thoughtful examination, we find that Mrs. Bush's 2005 gown certainly does merit a second look. The silver and blue embroidered tulle sparkler of a dress was far from forgettable. A custom Oscar de la Renta creation, made especially to suit her style, Mrs. Bush's gown radiated a winter mood, with the shimmer of just fallen snow. It was elegant, timeless and perfect for her (and perhaps taking a leap, we get the distinct sense that she felt beautiful wearing it). Without question, it was an exciting departure from the more expected and safe patriotic red Chantilly lace and satin gown by Dallas designer Michael Faircloth, worn for the 2001 Inaugural Ball.
Also exceptional was Mrs. Bush's ensemble for the 2005 Inaugural Parade. Again wearing Oscar de la Renta, her winter white cashmere embroidered coat (and matching boucle dress) instantly popped against the sea of dark overcoats. In a glowing review of Mrs. Bush's inaugural wardrobe, Robin Givhan of the Washington Post said Mrs. Bush's choice of winter white suggested "a certain chic understanding that restraint can be the most powerful form of expression" - an eloqeunt assessment that may well hold true for Mrs. O come January 20, 2009.