Category Archives: Fashion Flashback

Fashion Flashback: Rosalynn Carter’s recyced inaugural gown

Rosalynn Carter (Jimmy Carter Library)

In my eyes, Rosalynn Carter had great fashion sense. Her wardrobe consisted of posh, classic pieces of her era. However, still today many female politicians never wear the same dress twice, due to the overwhelming amount of criticism Mrs. Carter received for her reuse of a dress at the 1977 inaugural ball.

Rosalynn chose to wear her beautiful blue ball gown to the event. This dress featured chiffon material with gold trimming at the neck, waist, cuffs and bodice of her gown. Atop this dress, she wore a matching gold embroidered, sleeveless coat. However, there was only one problem to this stunning ensemble, Rosalynn Carter had worn the same exact dress, designed by Mary Matise, six years earlier. In 1971, she wore this dress to her husband’s inauguration as governor of Georgia. The news was filled with talk of the first lady’s failed responsibility to the fashion industry and how the American people desire their first lady to display glamour through her wardrobe.

Is this the same today? If Michelle Obama or Laura Bush were to reuse a ball gown, would the media crush them for this decision? Or, rather, would they be praised for taking note of our economic crisis? Perhaps Rosalynn Carter wore this dress because she liked it and did not desire another dress. In my opinion, our current female politicians should do the same. I think that the recycling of a gown would demonstrate that we are all having to cut back our spending during our current economic downfall.

Would you criticize a current politician if they wore the same gown to two separate events?

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Fashion Flashback: Nancy Reagan’s White House Christmas themes

Former President Ronald Reagan and Nancy Reagan (Ronald Reagan Presidential Library)

Former First Lady Nancy Reagan had the privilege of choosing the White House Christmas theme for eight consecutive Christmases. Her first official tree in 1981 was decorated with ornaments lent by the Museum of American Folk Art. However, for each following Christmas, Mrs. Reagan arranged for all the ornaments to be made by the members of Second Genesis, a drug treatment program in Washington, D.C., Maryland, and Virginia.

Foil cones and snowflakes were made in 1982, and then reused the following year for the White House tree, which featured old-fashioned toys, lent by the Margaret Woodbury Strong Museum. In 1984, the tree contained all natural pieces crafted by the Brandywine Museum in Pennsylvania. To complement these pieces, Second Genesis contributed ornaments fashioned out of plant materials.

In 1985 the tree was decorated with 1,500 ornaments made from holiday cards sent to President Reagan the year before. In order for these many ornaments so be made, Second Genesis paired up with the Reagan’s Executive Residence staff. The team was so great together that they worked alongside one another the next three holiday seasons. Together in 1986, they made 15 soft-sculpture nursery rhyme scenes and 100 geese ornaments for Mrs. Reagan’s “Mother Goose” themed Christmas. In 1987, the “Musical” tree was trimmed in miniature instruments, sheet music, and notes. For Nancy’s final “Old-fashioned” Christmas tree of 1988, the White House carpenters created 300 wood candles to hang from the Blue Room tree. In addition to these pieces, Mrs. Reagan added hand-blown glass ornaments from the Eisenhower Administration along with Pat Nixon’s state flower balls of 1969.

What do you think of Nancy’s style motif for the holidays?

History of the White House Christmas theme, started by Jackie Kennedy

JFK and Jackie Kennedy (jfklibrary.org)

Now that the official White House Christmas tree has been delivered, the only question remaining is “What will the 2010 White House Christmas theme be?”. This decision is left up to the first lady, and had been since the JFK Administration.

It was not until 1961 that the tradition of a White house Christmas theme began under Jacqueline Kennedy. Jackie, a lover of the arts, started a tradition of having a central theme for the White House Christmas season with her first theme of “The Nutcracker Suite”.

This tree was decorated with ornamental toys, birds, and angels reminiscent of Petr Tchaikovsky’s “Nutcracker Suite” ballet, and placed in the oval Blue Room. The following year, Mrs. Kennedy recycled these delicate pieces, placing them with other ornaments of packages, candy canes and gingerbread cookies on the tree for her second theme, “Children”. All the ornaments were made by disabled or senior citizens craftspeople in the United States. Since this time, the White House has never passed through the Christmas season without a central theme for the house.

Jackie Kennedy dress (AP Photo)

In the holiday photo above, Jacqueline Kennedy is seen wearing one of her iconic shift dresses from the 1960’s. This photograph, taken on December 12, 1962 at the White House Staff Christmas Reception, was when Jackie first debuted this deep pink dress, designed by Hubert de Givenchy. This sleeveless dress has a simple front, a classic look for Mrs. Kennedy, but the back of the dress consists of gathered material twisted together, forming a bow. It is now on display at the JFK Presidential Library and Museum in Boston, Massachusetts.

How wonderful it must be to be the First Lady of the United States around Christmas time! She must feel so honored to be in charge of the theme in which all the decorations of the White House are designed around. These decorations and themes are truly a deeper insight to each first lady’s own taste and style, as well as a reflection of their and style!

History of the White House Christmas tree, started by Caroline Harrison

Caroline Harrison (whitehousehistory.org)

Thanksgiving is over, and the Christmas season is quickly approaching. Whose tree farm will Mrs. Obama select to supply the White House with the official Christmas tree of the season? In honor of this event, let’s take a look at the great style of the woman who first began the tradition of the White House Christmas tree.

The first indoor White House Christmas tree was the tree of President Benjamin Harrison and First Lady Caroline Harrison in 1889. It stood in the Oval Room, located in the upstairs of the White House. Caroline, an artist, helped decorate this first White House tree, branched adorned with lit candles. Little did Mrs. Harrison know, she was setting the stage for a much-loved holiday tradition, the White House Christmas tree.

Following Caroline, not all first ladies chose indoor trees; however, Lou Henry Hoover’s tree began the yet unbroken custom of an indoor tree, known as the “official” White House Christmas tree. Since that time of 1929, the honor of trimming the White House Christmas tree has belonged to our nation’s hostess, the first lady.