With President Obama’s inauguration quickly sneaking up on us, I know I am not the only one who is excited to see what gorgeous gown Mrs. Obama will select for her second round of inaugural balls. Will she opt for classic black, or perhaps embrace an exciting pop of color for her second inaugural gown? Which designer will she select to have the honor of creating a dress that will be seen across the globe?
All the excitement surrounding Mrs. Obama’s big decision has made me think about first ladies who also had the privilege (and stress!) of selecting an inaugural gown on two occasions. Many of the gowns that first ladies have worn are on display at the Smithsonian in Washington DC, and it is definitely worth a visit to study the workmanship of the dresses and to see their beautiful details up-close.
Laura Bush is the most recent first lady who has held the position for two terms. Mrs. Bush had a close relationship with Dallas designer Michael Faircloth, who designed many of her outfits when she lived in the Texas Governor’s mansion. Her first inaugural gown was a ruby scoop necked gown made of delicate Chantilly lace and embroidered with Austrian crystals. The patriotic color was the perfect choice for her first step out onto the world’s stage.
For her second inaugural ball in 2005, Mrs. Bush selected Oscar de la Renta to design what many fashion critics reported as their favorite Bush inaugural gown. De la Renta’s ice blue and silver embroidered tulle V neck dress was an exciting change from the usual red and blue color palette, and the embroidery gave it an almost ethereal feel. The gown was accompanied by a matching duchess satin coat.
Laura Bush’s predecessor, Hillary Rodham Clinton was also first lady for two terms. Much like Michelle Obama, Clinton selected a relatively unknown designer to create her first inaugural gown. Hailing from Little Rock, Arkansas, Hillary Rodham Clinton first selected one of Sarah Phillips’ creations to wear to Bill Clinton’s acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention. Her inaugural gown, a shimmering violet beaded lace sheath and blue velvet silk mousseline overskirt, is perhaps one of the most striking on show in the Smithsonian. Mrs. Clinton accessorised her dress with a pair of satin shoes by Bruno Magli and a purse by Judith Leiber.
Clinton’s second inaugural dress was designed by First Lady favorite, Oscar de la Renta. The gold lace dress featured long sleeves and a high necked collar, and Clinton herself played a big part in specifying the precise design of the gown. The relationship between Clinton and de la Renta continues to this day, with the designer creating the dress that Secretary Clinton wore to her daughter’s wedding in 2010.
With this historical perspective, what are your thoughts on who will design Mrs. Obama's second inaugural ball gown?