Why the First Lady’s style matters most in American fashion – Footwear News

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As a new administration prepares to begin its term, all eyes will be on the next First Lady, Jill Biden. What she wears over the next four years is likely to influence how the public perceives not only her, but also her husband Joe Biden’s leadership style.

Although not an actual requirement, it has long been the position and tradition of the First Lady to use fashion symbolism to convey, through the power of the image, attitudes, general themes and messages of a US presidential administration. Until a woman achieves the highest office of the presidency herself – and/or traditional gendered fashion conformities are shattered by a president – ​​this legacy is likely to continue as it does. has been doing for centuries.

When Dolley Madison married James Madison in 1794, she traded in her dark Quaker attire for a more ornate royal-influenced look that helped her become a social expert in the Jefferson era. When her husband was elected president in 1809, Dolley hosted the first inaugural ball.

Jackie Kennedy’s regal, feminine looks may have been all the rage in the early ’60s, but they also sealed her murdered husband’s fairy tale “Camelot” legacy forever and in style. Even though the former first lady has moved on to new husbands and a new look, it was her days in the White House, pillbox hat and white gloves in hand, that cemented her status as a style icon forever. .


Jackie and John F. Kennedy.

CREDIT: WWD

Nancy Reagan’s sequined dresses and bouclé jackets helped define not only ’80s excess, but also the celebrity influence of the presidency. The Reagans regularly dated everyone from Frank Sinatra and Elizabeth Taylor to Michael Jackson.


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Nancy and Ronald Reagan at an inaugural ball.

CREDIT: AP Images

Hillary Clinton’s outfits of power during the White House era — even amid public scrutiny that scrutinized her every fashion and beauty experimentation and despite more personal controversy — helped establish the Clintons as the ultimate political power couple. In the following administration, Laura Bush’s bright but modest skirts kept her firmly in the First Lady’s role as the first teacher.


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Clinton in Paris during her husband’s first presidential term.

CREDIT: AP Images

Fashion has always played a role in the public opinion of a First Lady. But it was during Michelle Obama’s time in the role that the fashion industry began to pay greater attention to every event and outing, with brands positioning themselves more strategically in alignment not just with the carpet red but with the White House.

More recently, Melania Trump’s outfit choices, from her campaign blouse to the Republican National Convention military outfit (and let’s not forget the infamous Zara jacket in between) have read like Marie Antoinette’s hypberbol – but also as clothing puzzles for a woman who refuses to be defined by her clothing choices or her marriage.


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Melania Trump on Inauguration Day 2017.

CREDIT: AP Images

As inauguration day approaches, Jill Biden has already embraced the tradition of wearing American designers — and young independents at that. What she wears and who she wears will not only convey symbolic messages; it could also give the opportunity for global visibility to the brands she chooses, as was the case for creators like Jason Wu with Michelle Obama.


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Jill Biden on the eve of the inauguration, 2021.

CREDIT: AP Images

Click through to check out some of the best First Lady outfits in US history.

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