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First Lady's Inaugural Wardrobe Sparkles

Bush Twins Go Hollywood In Badgley Mischka Gowns

By Robin Givhan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, January 11, 2005; Page C01

The inaugural gown that first lady Laura Bush will wear next week is an ice blue and silver embroidered tulle V-neck dress with a matching duchess satin coat by Seventh Avenue designer Oscar de la Renta.

Laura Bush chose as her inaugural gown an ice blue and silver dress by Oscar de la Renta, whose designs she has worn for years. (Courtesy of The White House)
The gown is youthful and feminine, not sexy -- the epitome of good taste. But it is almost overshadowed by the glamorous day suit that de la Renta created for the swearing-in ceremony. The Inauguration Day ensemble consists of a winter white cashmere dress with embroidered trim that is topped with a matching embroidered coat. The ensemble has classic lines, but it also reflects fashion's current interest in ladylike daywear festooned with glitter or beading. It is not that Mrs. Bush has opted to indulge in fads for the president's second inauguration. It is that, at the moment, fashion has come around to her. The combination promises to be splendid.

_____From Robin Givhan_____
The First Lady Sews Up Her Inaugural Wardrobe (The Washington Post, Jan 7, 2005)
The Extravagance That Goes to Waist (The Washington Post, Jan 5, 2005)
Answering the Call of the Wild (The Washington Post, Dec 17, 2004)
Armani's Perfect Fit (The Washington Post, Dec 14, 2004)
A Designer Who Wore His City on His Sleeve (The Washington Post, Dec 10, 2004)
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The first lady has chosen a sophisticated and personal approach to her Inauguration Day wardrobe rather than kowtowing to tradition. Will there be an inaugural hat? "Negative on the hat," says her spokesman, Gordon Johndroe.

The president will wear a business suit to his swearing-in rather than a more formal morning coat -- a style last worn by President Ronald Reagan. The Bushes' daughters, Jenna and Barbara, have chosen to show off their fashion savvy as well as their sex appeal by supporting one of American fashion's more unproven talents and using the expertise of designers who take traditional beadwork and make it lighthearted.

When Mrs. Bush stands next to her husband at noon on Jan. 20, she will not be enveloped in the traditional patriotic primary hues of red or blue that have allowed so many first ladies to be spotted from a half-mile away. Indeed, for President Bush's first inaugural, Mrs. Bush wore a peacock blue suit by Dallas-based designer Michael Faircloth. It was tasteful, but safe, the Inauguration Day equivalent of a little black dress.

This time, Mrs. Bush will be wearing winter white, a color that suggests a certain chic understanding that restraint can be the most powerful form of expression. The suit is a customized version of a blue-trimmed beige tweed style that originally appeared in de la Renta's fall collection.

The first lady will wear a winter white cashmere day suit for the swearing-in. (Courtesy of The White House)
In winter white, there is also an unabashed proclamation of wealth. Clearly, one is not concerned with such banal issues as bad weather or the cost of dry cleaning. Winter white is crisp, pristine, a little aloof. It is not a warm and fuzzy color. Winter white -- a slightly more antique shade than the searing white one might wear in July -- is elegant. It will have the effect of a dazzling crystal on a sunny January day. And if fate should bring gray skies, the white will help to create a moody, nearly monochromatic image. Either way, Mrs. Bush is sure to stand out in the sea of men dressed in dark overcoats.

Mrs. Bush's inaugural gown, which was created especially for her, also shows fashion panache. In choosing a pale blue with hints of gray and silver, Mrs. Bush again distances herself from the Washington cliche that one's patriotism is in direct proportion to the amount of red, white and blue draped over one's body.

An Oscar de la Renta satin coat. (Courtesy of The White House)
In making her choices, de la Renta says, Mrs. Bush focused on her own sense of style and not on how a particular color or silhouette might look on television, from a distance or in the pages of history.

"She's very precise in what she likes and what is right for her," de la Renta says. "She can almost wear any color. First of all, she's a very handsome lady. But some people, because of their coloring, some things they can't wear. . . . She's also a regular size and so fitting isn't a problem."

Mrs. Bush has worn de la Renta's clothes from her first days in the White House. But the designer, who counts Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) among his clients, was surprised when he first learned that Mrs. Bush was an admirer of his work.

A Peggy Jennings evening gown. (Courtesy of The White House)
When Mrs. Bush arrived in Washington, she was photographed for Vogue. In preparation for that shoot, the magazine asked de la Renta to lend clothes. "I said, 'I don't think Laura Bush would want to wear Oscar de la Renta,' because I was so closely identified with Hillary Clinton," de la Renta recalls. The designer had created Clinton's second inaugural gown and she had been photographed frequently wearing his clothes.

"I completely misjudged her. The first lady is not that kind of person."

Mrs. Bush arrived for that Vogue shoot wearing a red de la Renta suit that, he says, she'd purchased while in Texas. Later that day, she selected a de la Renta pantsuit to be photographed in as well.

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