First Ladies' Inaugural Ball Gowns Past

The politics of fashion: taking the stage at the Inaugural Ball.

January 16, 2013, 1:32 PM

Jan. 17, 2013 -- quicklist:1title: Michelle Obamatext:Speculation continues about the question of the year: What will Michelle Obama wear to the 2013 Inaugural Ball?

The first lady, who is known for her chic and classy fashion sense, has been spotted draped in pieces by Michael Kors, Tracy Reese, Thakoon, Narciso Rodriguez, Isabel Toledo, Naeem Khan, Vera Wang, Marchesa and others. Though any one these designers are on the short list for gaining the title of most-prized gown of the year, Obama is keeping fashion enthusiasts on their toes as they patiently wait to admire the chosen piece Jan. 21.

During the last Inaugural Ball in Washington Jan. 20, 2009, Obama wore a gown designed by New York-based designer Jason Wu.

Obama donned Wu's white, one-shouldered, silk-chiffon-and-Swarovski-crystal gown and has since been spotted wearing other pieces from the New Yorker's collection.

Wu, who was born in Taiwan, raised in Canada and resides in New York, began his career by studying at Parsons The New School for Design at The New School. He later interned for New York fashion designer Narciso Rodriguez, who is best known for designing the wedding dress that Carolyn Bessette wore when she married John F. Kennedy Jr. Rodriguez has also dressed the first lady.

Rodriguez's protégé, Wu, launched his line in 2006. Wu's stardom began to rise in 2008 when he received Fashion Group International's Rising Star award for his first collection.

Other star-studded clients known to have worn the up-and-coming designer's fashions are Leighton Meester, January Jones, Tinsley Mortimer, Ivanka Trump, Kerry Washington.

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quicklist:2title: Laura Bushtext: In 2001, first lady Laura Bush donned a crystal-embellished, ruby-red gown from Texas designer Michael Faircloth to her husband's first Inaugural Ball.

A year after her husband became the 43rd president of the United States, Laura Bush formally presented that ruby gown to the Smithsonian Institution's First Ladies Collection at the National Museum of American History in Washington.

Along with the dress, Laura Bush also donated a matching coat, shoes and bag for the collection.Not to be outdone by her first gown, four years later, in 2005, Bush wore a pale-aqua laced gown by famed designer Oscar de la Renta to the second inauguration of her husband, George W. Bush.


quicklist:3title: Hillary Clintontext: First lady Hillary Clinton stuck to her roots for husband Bill Clinton's first Inaugural Ball in 1993. She supported a hometown Arkansan designer, Sarah Phillips, by donning a shimmering, long-sleeved, purple-lace gown by the designer from Little Rock.

Similarly to her successor, Hillary Clinton wore a piece by Oscar de la Renta for her husband's second Inaugural Ball. Her second dress was a high-necked, gold gown that added a bit of glam to the first lady's otherwise conservative style.


quicklist: 4title: Barbara Bushtext: In 1989, first lady Barbara Bush wore a velvet-and-satin gown by Canadian designer Arnold Scaasi. Scaasi has also designed for the likes of first ladies Mamie Eisenhower, Hillary Clinton and Laura Bush.

The beauty of the draped dress made Barbara hesitant to donate it to the Smithsonian Institution, telling Time, "I love this dress … and I really hate to give it up."

She first accessorized her ensemble with a triple-stranded, choker pearl necklace and earrings.

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quicklist:5title:Nancy Reagantext:With her hair back and her gloves on, Nancy Reagan elegantly sported a $22,500 hand-beaded gown designed by James Galanos to the first Inaugural Ball of her husband, Ronald Reagan. The single-shouldered, intricately detailed dress now sits among the Smithsonian collection of donated dresses worn by first ladies.

Reagan was a repeat offender four years later when she wore a two-piece Galanos design to her husband's second Inaugural Ball in 1985.

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