All The Rage

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As we celebrate Ronald Reagan's centennial, a look back at his first lady's style

February 5, 2011 |  9:00 am


When First Lady Michelle Obama drew some flak for choosing a gown from British design house  Alexander McQueen instead of one from an American designer for a state dinner recently, it reminded me of how a first lady's wardrobe choices symbolize more than just her individual taste.

Los Angeles Times fashion critic Booth Moore has touched on this subject frequently. For instance, on the eve of Barack Obama's inauguration, she remembered another changing of the guard. "In 1977, Rosalynn Carter recycled the blue gown she'd worn for her husband's gubernatorial inaugural, in keeping with the president's decision to host the People's Inaugural, complete with $25 ball tickets," Moore wrote. "Four years later, Nancy Reagan's $10,000 bugle-beaded James Galanos gown signaled a return to glamour in the White House that was curiously timed, considering the country was about to enter a recession."

Indeed, Nancy Reagan drew considerable criticism at the time for her elegant clothing, often borrowed from the likes of Bill Blass, Adolfo and James Galanos -- but she always looked great.

This weekend, the nation celebrates the centennial of President Reagan's birth, and on Sunday at 10 p.m. PBS plans to broadcast a documentary about Nancy Reagan. All the Rage thought it was a good time to take a look back at her impeccable style.

-- Susan Denley


Top photo: Ronald and Nancy Reagan at his 1967 California gubernatorial inauguration. Nancy is wearing a brocade evening gown with a braided halter neckline by Galanos. Credit: Ronald Reagan Presidential Library

Bottom photo: Nancy Reagan wears a comic outfit for the 1982 Gridiron Club dinner in Washington. Credit: Associated Press