An Illustrated History of the Inaugural Gowns Worn by First Ladies Over the Last 100 Years

There’s the Bible that the President will use during his swearing-in ceremony. There’s the national anthem performance. And then there’s the dress the incoming First Lady will wear on Inauguration Night.

It sends a message for the next four or eight years to come. Who are they wearing? What’s the style of the gown? And how fashionable does America’s new FLOTUS look?

Here are illustrations of the iconic gowns First Ladies have worn at presidential inaugurations through the past 100 years.

1917: Edith Wilson

Image Credit: Maggie Chambers for Independent Journal Review

Wilson wore a black velvet dress with an eight-foot train.

1921: Florence Harding

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1923: Grace Coolidge

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Coolidge’s era-appropriate dress is the only one within the last 100 years that wasn’t floor-length. It was the roaring ’20s, after all.

1929: Lou Hoover

Image Credit: Maggie Chambers for Independent Journal Review

According to the Smithsonian, Hoover was the first First Lady to appear in Vogue magazine, and made a point to always wear clothing made in America.

1933: Eleanor Roosevelt

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Roosevelt’s first inaugural gown was made of “slate blue silk crepe” that was “embroidered with a leaf-and-flower design in gold thread,” according to the Smithsonian.

1937: Eleanor Roosevelt

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1941: Eleanor Roosevelt

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1945: Eleanor Roosevelt

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Roosevelt was the longest-serving First Lady of the United States, attending four inaugurations corresponding with her husband’s four terms in office.

1949: Bess Truman

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1953: Mamie Eisenhower

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The Nettie Rosenstein design featured 2,000 rhinestones.

1957: Mamie Eisenhower

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According to the Washington Post:

“Mamie Eisenhower was something of a fashion plate, Caroli says. The military wife seemed to blossom once she entered the White House and became known for her signature narrow fringe of bangs and her love of pink.”

1961: Jackie Kennedy

Image Credit: Maggie Chambers for Independent Journal Review

Jackie Kennedy’s only inaugural dress was accompanied by elbow-length gloves, but sadly, no signature pillbox hat or fascinator (although, she did wear one during the swearing-in!).

1965: Lady Bird Johnson

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1969: Pat Nixon

Image Credit: Maggie Chambers for Independent Journal Review

Pat Nixon didn’t just choose to wear a canary-yellow gown to her husband’s inauguration. She topped it with a blinding, crystal-encrusted jacket and belt.

1973: Pat Nixon

Image Credit: Maggie Chambers for Independent Journal Review

Note: After Nixon’s impeachment, President Gerald Ford never had a formal inauguration. Therefore, Betty Ford had no inaugural gown.

1977: Rosalynn Carter

Image Credit: Maggie Chambers for Independent Journal Review

This 1970s, flowy Mary Matise for Jimmae gown wasn’t a new purchase for Rosalynn Carter. She first wore it in 1971, for her husband’s gubernatorial ball.

1981: Nancy Reagan

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1985: Nancy Reagan

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She took heat for a reported $46,000 budget just for her 1985 inaugural wardrobe, which included a gown with glass beads that took more than 300 hours to arrange.

At both inaugurations, Reagan chose close-to-body James Galanos gowns in white — a color associated with women’s suffrage, innocence, and purity.

1989: Barbara Bush

Image Credit: Maggie Chambers for Independent Journal Review

With the volume of the 1980s in full effect, dress designer Arnold Scaasi called Barbara Bush “the most glamorous grandmother in the United States.”

1993: Hillary Clinton

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1997: Hillary Clinton

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Clinton’s Oscar de la Renta gown also included a cape.

As you can tell by the waistlines, high necklines, and transparent long sleeves of both dresses, Clinton has a tendency to stick with what she knows.

2001: Laura Bush

Image Credit: Maggie Chambers for Independent Journal Review

Much like Nancy Reagan, Laura Bush’s gravitation towards red inspired this dress created by fellow Texan Michael Faircloth.

2005: Laura Bush

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2009: Michelle Obama

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2013: Michelle Obama

Image Credit: Maggie Chambers for Independent Journal Review

Michelle Obama chose Taiwanese designer Jason Wu to design both of her inauguration gowns. The designer somewhat unknown to the fashion world in 2008, and skyrocketed his brand to national visibility once she wore him in 2009.

For both dresses, Obama chose to highlight her two most talked-about features: her arms.

2017: Melania Trump

Image Credit: Maggie Chambers for Independent Journal Review

Trump is known for her pussybows, trumpet sleeves, and mid-calve designer dresses, but it’s still unclear who she’ll wear for the big night, given the fact that many designers have said they won’t dress the future FLOTUS.

The night prior to the inauguration, Trump chose a form-fitting, sparkly, champagne Reem Acra gown. Perhaps that’s a hint at the style she’ll be wearing after her husband’s swearing in. Guess we’ll have to wait and see!

UPDATE: Melania Trump chose to wear a custom, form-fitting organza gown by Hervé Pierre for the evening’s inaugural festivities:

Image Credit: Maggie Chambers for Independent Journal Review

Here are illustrations of all the gowns worn over the past 100 years:

Image Credit: Maggie Chambers for Independent Journal Review

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