Photo courtesy of the Truman Library
As the excited speculation builds over Mrs. O’s Inaugural Ball gown, we continue with our historical tour of past First Ladies and their Inaugural costumes.
On January 20, 1953, Mamie Doud Eisenhower, the 34th First Lady, created a fashion sensation with her decidedly pretty-in-pink presence at the Inaugural Ball. Designed by Nettie Rosenstein of New York City, whose work can be seen in the Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum, Mrs. Eisenhower's gown was made of pink peau de soie and lavishly encrusted with 2,000 pink rhinestones. It featured an off-the-shoulder neckline and the deep V of the bodice ended in a Renaissance waist. The skirt of the gown was full and flowed out from the fitted waistline. Mrs. Eisenhower wore a three-strand pearl choker she had commissioned from Trifari, maker of some of the finest costume jewelry of the time. Matching pink opera gloves completed the look.
Mrs. Eisenhower's style was influential during her husband’s two Presidential terms. “Mamie pink” or “First Lady pink” became an iconic color of the 1950s and the fitted bodice and full skirt silhouette Mrs. Eisenhower favored (which was first shown in Dior’s “The New Look” in 1947) was readily adapted in both day dresses and evening wear of that decade. Her costume jewelry choice proved so popular that Trifari filed and won a law suit preventing cheap knock-offs of their designs.
The fashion choices of Mrs. O have already shown great panache and popularity. And like Mamie Eisenhower before her, the fashion industry is taking note. Tellingly, designer Elie Tahari unveiled a new purple sheath named the "the Michelle dress" this past week. Might 2009 be the year of "Michelle purple"? Or better yet, "Mrs. O purple"?
A bonus: In the course of our research, we stumbled upon Milky Way Jewels, a Port Hadlock, WA based vintage jewelry store that offers an impressive selection of authentic Trifari pieces - including this necklace, similar to the pearl choker Mrs. Eisenhower wore.