Lavish Ladies: First Lady Fashion Throughout History

by Laura Fels · April 3, 2012

While current First Lady Michelle Obama has been busy topping 'Best Dressed' lists since her husband took office, she most certainly is not the first White House wife with a presence on the political fashion scene. Former first lady looks like Nancy Reagan's infamous inaugural gown and Jackie O's signature style have been turning heads and influencing the fashion world for years. We've compiled some of our favorite looks from the most influential and posh political fashionistas throughout history!

1) Grace Coolidge (First Lady from 1923-1929)

First Lady Coolidge always took the roaring 20's by storm in flapper-inspired dresses and long strands of pearls, as seen here. We love how she took a stereotypically wild and sexy style era and made it White House appropriate with a classic twist. Though you don't see it here, Grace Coolidge was also famous for her bold color choices, many of which are back in style today! Her fashion risks were a perfect complement to the major strides going on in the political world while her husband was in office. During her term as First Lady, women won the right to vote and joined the work force.

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2) Mary Todd Lincoln (First Lady from 1861-1865)

It's reported that Mary Todd Lincoln, wife of President Lincoln, often embarrassed her husband with her spending sprees and fashion fervor. Even though Mrs. Lincoln was not always considered the most gracious, she could always be counted on as a shopping companion, as she had dresses made to her exact specifications and spared not a dime on posh perfection. Frugal was she not, First Lady Lincoln once spent over twenty thousand dollars refurnishing the White House. Nevertheless, we're taken aback by her sense of style. That floral headpiece looks a lot like what we've seen on the 21st century runway!

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3) Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis (First Lady from 1961-1963)

Everyone knows Jackie O as a connoisseur for her taste in style and we absolutely love this jewel tone number she wore in 1961 at a dinner honoring the President of Peru. Jackie was famous for her bold pearls, cinched waists and perfectly cropped bob. Her white gloves here pull the look together as classic Kennedy! While this look is absolutely to die for, its impossible to pick just one fashionable favorite for Jackie!

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4) Nancy Reagan (First Lady from 1981-1989)

Former actress, First Lady and forever fashionista, Nancy Reagan brought a look of elegance, flair and affluence to the White House. The former First Lady's wardrobe consisted of stylish suits, festive pieces and chic ensembles from her favorite designers such as Oscar de la Renta, Bill Blass and James Galanos. In 1981, Mrs. Reagan's inaugural one shoulder beaded Galanos gown cost an estimated ten thousand dollars while her entire wardrobe for the inaugural events totaled a rumored twenty five thousand dollars! Nevertheless, the former First Lady has always been applauded for her fashion forward looks (even today!) and in 1989 was honored at the annual awards dinner of the Council Fashion Designers of America for the council's lifetime achievement award!

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5) Laura Bush (First Lady from 2001-2009)

While Laura Bush is known more for her political involvement than her fashion sense, her classic suits and easy elegance kept her look pristine and classic. Perfectly suited for her role as the president's wife, Mrs. Bush could often be found in a tailored number in pale pastels and winter white. A lover of Oscar de la Renta, Bush's looks were often praised by People magazine and The Washington Post. We love this sparkling Bush look to the left, especially the pop of color around the waist. The crystal gown and deep neckline make the look elegant but appropriate for welcoming Poland's president in 2002.

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6) Hillary Rodham Clinton (First Lady from 1993-2001)

Waiting with her husband for Chinese Premier Zhu Rongji in 1999, this is most definitely my favorite Clinton look EVER. The silhouette is slimming, the sweetheart neck is classic and the sheer finish gives the gown a tad bit of a sexy edge. The diamond necklace finished the dress with just the right amount of ice. Hillary absolutely rocked this First Lady look. Enough said.

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7) Michelle...actually, Malia Obama (Current First Daughter)

While her mother has been listed in Vogue and Vanity Fair as one of the most fashionable leading ladies of all time, Malia Obama has definitely been taking notes. At the White House Christmas celebration in 2010, Malia's look definitely stole the show. We love the holiday ruffles on the black dress accented with a glimmering gold belt. Despite being barely a teenager, Malia has definitely mastered dressing to the nines.

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