50 Years of Gorgeous Inaugural Gowns

From Jacqueline Kennedy's couture to Michelle Obama's two Wus, see how far first lady style has come

01 of 09

JACQUELINE KENNEDY

JACQUELINE KENNEDY
Bettman/Corbis

In 1961, the then-31-year-old earned her fashion icon status from the beginning, stepping out with John F. Kennedy in a white gown and cape she designed herself, with the help of Bergdorf Goodman’s Ethan Frankau.

02 of 09

LADY BIRD JOHNSON

LADY BIRD JOHNSON
LBJ Library/AP

The Texan, who at 51 went by her nickname “Lady Bird” instead of her given name Claudia, brightened up husband Lyndon B. Johnson’s 1965 inauguration in a yellow silk gown by John Moore.

03 of 09

PATRICIA NIXON

PATRICIA NIXON
Bettmann/CORBIS

In 1969, the 56-year-old celebrated her husband Richard Nixon’s presidency by donning a Karen Stark for Harvey Berin double-faced satin gown and matching embroidered cropped jacket.

04 of 09

ROSALYNN CARTER

Image
Everett

In keeping with the thrifty feeling of a country facing an economic slump in 1977, the 49-year-old (with daughter Amy, 9) repurposed a Mary Matise for Jimmae gold embroidered coat over a blue chiffon gown – the same one she had worn to husband Jimmy Carter’s gubernatorial inauguration.

05 of 09

NANCY REAGAN

NANCY REAGAN
Mai/Time Life Pictures/Getty

Along with husband Ronald Reagan, the 59-year-old first lady ushered in a new era of glamour at the White House in 1981, beginning with her embroidered lace inaugural gown by James Galanos.

06 of 09

BARBARA BUSH

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Bettmann/CORBIS

The 63-year-old first lady was as known for her snow-white hair as she was for her trademark triple-strand of pearls, which she paired with a royal blue Arnold Scaasi gown for husband George H. Bush’s 1989 gala.

07 of 09

HILLARY CLINTON

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Shayna Brennan/AP

The 45-year-old former first lady of Arkansas decided to support a hometown designer for husband Bill Clinton’s 1993 inauguration, selecting a shimmering purple lace gown by Little Rock’s Sarah Phillips. For Clinton’s second inauguration, she wore a lace gown by Oscar de la Renta.

08 of 09

LAURA BUSH

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Doug Mills/AP

George W. Bush’s then-54-year-old wife followed in Clinton’s footsteps for both inaugural balls. For the 2001 gala, the first lady donned local favorite Michael Faircloth’s red lace gown, but chose Oscar de la Renta to design the silver one she wore to the 2005 celebration.

09 of 09

MICHELLE OBAMA

MICHELLE OBAMA
Reuters/Jason Reed/Landov; AP/Jacquelyn Martin

The current loved her “masterpiece” Jason Wu gown so much the first time around in 2009 that she returned to the designer for her second Inaugural Ball ensemble, choosing this ruby velvet gown to show off her toned arms (and new bangs!).

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