With the inauguration of our new president came an awful lot of hubbub about the new First Lady, what she’s worn in the past, and of course what we could expect her fashionable future to look like. Certainly this should come as no surprise as Michelle Obama is by no means the first First Lady whose style would be picked over, analyzed, and poked and prodded by fashionistas everywhere. Naturally Jackie O’ comes to mind as everyone’s obvious style icon, and Hillary Clinton as a symbol of pant suit wearers everywhere. However a fashionable flabbergast was heard around the world when it was revealed in recent days, that Martha Washington was in fact our very first style maven! Check out the pictures to the left to see what she might have worn today.
Of course our first impression of poor Martha is a picture of a white-haired, bonnet wearing, frumpy, style-less, and quite frankly in need of a make-over older woman. However, recent reports and some truly terrific technology have revealed that Martha was, well, a looker in her day and a clotheshorse at that. Her most memorable fashion statement was surely the plum pumps with sequence detail and sparkly buckles she chose to wear the night she married dear old George! They were considered very fashion forward at the time. And she didn’t disappoint at her Inauguration in a salmon silk faille gown with embroidered flowers.
As her husband’s presidency ensued, so did her propensity for good quality and high-end fabrics. She chose to entertain in formal style with the hopes of gaining equal stance to the already established governments of Europe as well as a tool to advance her husband’s career. Go Martha! Naturally, she dressed the part taking advantage of local boutiques in New York and Philadelphia and more often placing orders for the very finest English laces, silks, jewelry and shoes. Sounds a little like Nancy Reagan, no? It’s also said she favored garnet jewelry which was popular at the time.
Certainly, money wasn’t a concern as she supposedly spent about $750 a year on clothes and jewelry which would be about $12,000 today. (Don't you wish you had a clothing budget like that?) And while the value of a dollar may have changed, certainly the value of a slim physique has not. Martha was said to be small and thin, ordering her clothes in small sizes. And while lying about your size might fly today, it was not an option for Martha, as their was no return policy when shipping clothes from overseas.
When all is said and done, it seems most First Ladies share Marth'a style philosophy— the desire to look fashionable and not flamboyant, elegant and not showy. And while many will spend the next four years comparing Michelle to the former Mrs. Kennedy, I’m looking to Mrs. Washington for some style inspiration. Good quality, simple styles, rich fabrics, nothing too over the top, and of course every once in a while a pair of fabulous shoes no one could resist!