tv First Ladies and the Politics of Fashion CSPAN November 27, 2014 10:55am-12:01pm EST
setting. and you can almost hear the echoes. you can hear point of order, mr. chairman. you can hear the gavel of the chairman. i can remember sam irvin sitting up there. it brings back lots of memories over time. it's certainly filled with the echoes of history. up next, the herbert hoover presidential library hosts author annette dunlap as she explores the evolution of first ladies' fashion. she chronicles on the public image of the women living in the white house and what their wardrobe choices reveal about the times in which they lived. this program runs about an hour. >> well, good afternoon and welcome to the herbert hoover presidential library museum. my name's tom schwartz, and i'm the director. and i'm pleased you have joined
us for another program celebrating america's first ladies. in the lobby at the ticket desk, you'll find a palm card which talk about some of our other upcoming events. also dealing with our first ladies exhibition. we're honored today to have annette dunlap as our speaker. annette was awarded an mba from washington university at st. louis. and has more than 30 years of experience as a writer, speaker and entrepreneurial consultant. in her spare time when she's not raising cattle on a 29-acre farm in north carolina, annette writes books. her first biography was "frank: the story of francis folsom cleveland, america's youngest first lady." and her second book, "the gambler's daughter: a social and personal history" involved a bit of autobiography in exploring
her father's gambling addiction. dunlap's current research brings her to lou henry hoover. she has twice been a recipient of the hoover presidential foundation's travel grants for visiting scholars, allowing annette to mind the lou henry hoover manuscript collection here in west branch. dunlap was featured as scholar for frances cleveland and lou henry hoover on c-span's recent series, "america's first ladies." more than a decade has lapsed since lou hoover received a book-length biography. so dunlap's published research is eagerly awaited. anyone who's had the briefest introduction to lou immediately recognizes an individual possessing a powerful intellect, an infectious and generous spirit, clear vision and goals, and a natural inspiring leader. in addition to the lou henry hoover biography, dunlap is completing two other book
projects. louis comfort tiffany and the business of art expected for release in 2017 and charles g. dawes, to be published in early 2016. following annette's formal presentation, there will be a question and answer period. if you have a question, please raise your hand and do not speak until a microphone is given to you. now, the microphone will be given to you off. you just flip the little button. look at the green light. that pull put it on. after you asked your question, shut it off and pass it back to the aisle. i hope you'll join us in the lobby afterwards where copies of dunlap's biography of frances folsom cleveland will be available for purchase and signing. we're also pleased that c-span is here today to record this event for wider viewership. i would be especially grateful
if everyone would take this moment to silence all electronic devices. we don't want to hear your ringtone. ladies and gentlemen, please welcome annette b. dunlap who will speak on america's first ladies and the politics of fashion. >> thank you very much. that's a great introduction. well, thank you, tom, for the introduction and i was listening to this saying who is this person? i guess it's the one who stares out from the mirror. first of all, you are the most awesome crowd ever. and i speak at much smaller venues, and i will have to admit that when the first ten people showed up, i said to tom, well, five more people showed up than i was expecting, so i'm feeling great. and then we came down to please raise your hand if there are any available seats, so thank you all so very, very very much.
i really appreciate it. so let's take this afternoon to kind of journey through a history of our first ladies and their fashions. and if you haven't had an opportunity to do so while you're here at the hoover this afternoon, i want to encourage you to see the special first ladies exhibit which i finally had a chance to take in this morning when i was here. and it is really awesome. and i have been to the exhibits that are at the national first ladies library in canton, ohio, and also at the museum of american history at the smithsonian in washington, and i'm not plugging for either of those, but just to let you know on a comparative basis that this is a really delightful and very interesting exhibit. and i hope you'll have a chance to take advantage of it. i've got a couple of special thanks that i want to make sure go out this afternoon. one, of course, is to the herbert hoover presidential library museum, not only for hosting me this afternoon and giving me an opportunity to share with you on this topic
that i started researching a couple of years ago after i wrote an article about frank for the white house historical association on her clothing because it was research i had not done for the book, but also a special thanks to the white house historical association. the paintings that you will see as part of my presentation are copyrighted by them, and they have given me permission to use them in my presentation which therefore allow this program to be taped by c-span. so my appreciation goes to them, and i want to publicly acknowledge that. and then i do want to thank c-span for sending a crew out and taping this and making this program available to a much wider audience. so thank you all so very, very much. there is no question that we are interested in what our first ladies wear. one of the designers who designed for mamie eisenhower and barbara bush and hillary clinton by the name of arnold skossi is quoted as having said that we look at what the first
lady wears, and all eyes are on her. he says that even the eyes of the world are on what the first lady wears and that if women are able to copy those designs, then they will do so. and so we tend to find as our favorite first ladies those first ladies who are wearing fashions that possibly we can wear ourselves or make us feel good about ourselves. we always take a look at clothing. and it's interesting, but when you talk to the communications expe experts, what they will tell you is that the visual component of communication makes up over 70% of everything that we say. and roughly only 6% or 7% of what we actually say goes into communication. so essentially we form our impressions of people by our eyes. and then we go from there. and i think that's very true in our very visual medium today. we have pictures of our leaders and their spouses all the time. and we take a very careful look at what they wear.
and we have lots of comments about what they wear. sometimes positive, sometimes not so positive. but i think one of the things that's most interesting is for us to go back in history and realize that we have first ladies whose fashions became popular not only here in this country but also in europe when all they had were newspaper descriptions and maybe some pencil sketches. and so a really good way to start to describe that is with dolly madison. dolly was first lady 200 years ago. we are in the process of commemorating the 200th anniversary of the war of 1812. and of course, one of the stories about dolly, which is something of an urban legend, is that -- well, the fact that the white house was burned by the british is not the urban legend, but part of the urban legend is that she cut the gilbert stewart painting of george washington out of its frame. she allegedly rolled it up and tucked it under her skirtfleein
house. now, that may or may not be actually the truth, but one of the things that seems to be documented truth is that while she was trying to preserve the silver and the china and the washington painting, she was also worried about her dresses that she had ordered from france and that were on the ship coming across the atlantic and worried about whether or not they would make it through the british blockade of our shores. the other thing that had her a little bit concerned was what madison was going to say when she -- he saw the bill for the duty on those clothes which presumably was somewhere in the neighborhood of $2,000 in 1814 money. i would say that the woman loved fashion. dolly is really in a lot of ways our first official first lady. george and martha never lived in washington, in spite of the name of the town. john adams lived in the white house about six months. i should say abigail lived in
the white house for about six months. thomas jefferson was a widower. and his daughter helped for a while until she passed away. dolly then stepped in. but it's really with james madison that we get the idea of the first lady as a hostess. and someone who would invite members of congress and diplomats to come together for teas and other opportunities to get together and chat. we kind of need a dolly in the white house today a little bit because she seemed to be very effective at bringing the opposing views to bear in the white house and getting them to be nice to each other while they were in her presence. part of what might have made her very appealing to her predominantly male guests would have been her style preferences which, as you can see, shows a little bit of bosom. and there were several people who really didn't like that very much. one of whom was her predecessor, abigail adams. i thought about putting a picture of abigail up here by
means of comparison because in abigail's portrait of the white house -- or excuse me, as the first lady, she's wearing a mob cap, a high-neck dress and a shawl over it just to make sure everything is covered. abigail's attitude about what dolly wore was that she looked like a nursing mother. dolly actually comes from my adopted state of north carolina. she was born in gilford county. and for those of you who are from this area, you may be aware of the fact that gilford county was settled by quakers. dolly was raised as a quaker. and when she married james madison, she was ex-communicated because he was not a quaker. it is said that she encountered a fellow former quaker friend of hers on the street one day. as those of you who are part of the quaker tradition know, it was practice for men at that
time to wear hats as a sign of humility. she looked at her friend and said to him, friend, where is thy hat? he looked at her, particularly the neckline, and said, friend, where is thy kerchief? dolly tried a little bit of everything. she was copied both here and in europe if she tried new colors, she tried new styles, she tried new shoes, she tried new jewelry. and what she was most familiar with other than the low neckline was her turban which was essentially a silk scarf that she wrapped around her head in a somewhat turkish fashion. and it was so popular that it was copied not only here but also across europe. i would also add that the europeans had an impact on what we wore as well because part of the reason for the style of dolly's clothing is that this is what josephine was wearing at
that time, and of course we were heavily influenced by french fashion and the french, in general. they had befriended us during the revolutionary war. they were helping us, again, during the war of 1812. and their styles and their fashion pretty much dominate american fashion through the end of the 19th century, and we'll start to take a look at that as we move forward. the next first lady that we're going to take a look at is angela singleton van buren. angela van buren is actually the daughter-in-law of martin van buren. martin van buren is our eighth president. he succeeded andy jackson. both jackson and van buren were widowers. something of a difference between jackson and van buren is that van buren had four sons. and the four sons moved in with him into the white house, and they kind of turned it into their little bachelor pad. maybe not a 21st century bachelor pad. that really might have been said
about angdy jackson because he kind of liked to let everybody come in whenever. martin van buren's style was obviously much more masculine. unlike jackson who as i said didn't mind having a bunch of crowds in the white house visiting with him, van buren was a little more reticent and a little more reserved. and he would have smaller dinner parties, and he restricted who had access to him. after the idea of jacksonian democracy, this idea didn't go over too well with the american public, and it was sort of added to after angela married van buren's son, abraham. angela is actually dolly madison's cousin. angelic ka. angelica is from south carolina. and she had come to washington to visit some other relatives. dolly who was still pretty much of a major force in washington as a hostess and a social queen did not like this idea of five men running the white house.
so she arranged for angelica to be introduced to van buren's sons. and the eldest son, abraham, actually fell in love with her. the two of them got married. and as part of abraham doing some diplomatic work on behalf of his father, they traveled to england for their honeymoon. there some friends including the american ambassador to britain arranged for angelica to have an audience with queen victoria. well, angelica was quite taken with the idea of the queen sitting on a throne on a dais with feathers in her hair, and she brought that idea back to the united states with her. so that when she moved into the white house to assist her father-in-law with social events during the social season, she indeed had a dais constructed with a throne and sat on it and received guests. needless to say, between van buren's somewhat haughty
attitude, we only had one term of martin van buren. all right. so let's go to mary todd lincoln. she is the wife of our 16th president from neighboring illinois or neighboring kentucky, depending on your tendencies. i want to encourage you, if you have -- are going to look at the first lady's exhibit, you're going to see a photograph there of harriet lane johnston. harriet lane johnston was the ward of james buchanan, our only bachelor president. and she served as his hostess. she was very, very popular in washington during the years of 1856 to 1860. it is also said that she helped introduce frances folsom cleveland into the ways of washington when frances married grover cleveland, but i don't want to get ahead of my story.
so take a look at harriet's portrait and look really carefully at that dress. and then keep in mind this dress. it is said that mary todd lincoln saw that dress and harriet lane liked it so much that she asked her dressmaker to please copy it. and this is the dress that mary lincoln wore at lincoln's first inaugural. from the very beginning, mary was very concerned about her appearance. it is said that she told her dressmaker that the eyes of the american public are going to be upon her, and she had to be very, very careful about what she wore. well, indeed, they were -- their eyes were on her. but once again, our somewhat conservative american public didn't like that low neckline. they called her a somewhat weak-minded woman who exposed her bosom to everybody and who was always wearing a garden in her hair.
so from the very beginning, the american public was not particularly happy or satisfied with the way she dressed. of course, she didn't help things along because the white house had sort of been allowed to deteriorate over the past previous administrations. and so she was able to get congress to appropriate $20,000 for her to refurbish the white house. but she ran the bill up to $26,000, just about -- and the bills start coming in just about the time the civil war is getting under way. needless to say, old abe had a few choice words with his wife, and he was extremely angry about the fact that she had had this cost overrun because he said i can't even get congress to appropriate money for blankets and things our soldiers need, but now you've told me that you've spent an additional $6,000 on things for the white house. i think he was a little blunter than that, but he got his point across. one of the other stories about mary with her clothing -- and
this is found in the memoirs that lincoln's secretary's john hay and john nikolay, was that her dress bills allegedly ran to $27,000. and that she began to hit up republican appointees during the 1864 election telling them that if they wanted to keep their positions if her husband was re-elected, they needed to somewhat contribute to her dress fund. i think today we would call that the wardrobe slush fund. but one of the things that had her concerned and probably legitimately so was that her husband's re-election in that time of turmoil was not guaranteed, and she was terrified of the possibility of them leaving the white house with her owing that kind of money and her for the knowing where their income was going to come from if, indeed, lincoln was not elected president. which brings us to one of my
favorite first ladies. frances folsom cleveland. frances or frank as she was known by her family was 21 years old when she married 49-year-old grover cleveland who was a bachelor. when they got married. we are getting ready to celebrate the 150th anniversary of her birth on july 21st. the clevelands married on june 2nd, 1886. there had been rumors when cleveland entered the white house in march of 1885, march being the month when presidents came in at that time before we moved it to a january inauguration. that cleveland was engaged, and there was all kinds of speculation about all of the different people that he might be engaged to. he and frank had gotten engaged shortly after she graduated from wells college in 1885. and it was something that he decided to keep secret. and part of the reason why he did that is if you ever study
anything about cleveland's campaign in 1884, you will see that the story came out about his allegedly fathering a child out of wedlock. and there is a famous political cartoon has published after cleveland gets elected, and it goes "ma, ma, where's my pa?" and the answer is "gone to the white house, ha, ha, ha." but cleveland knew that what the press could do, and in a very protective and in some respects a fatherly way, it was his desire to keep frank protected from the press until the absolute last minute. some of that was helped along by the fact that frank and her mother and her cousin traveled to europe in october of 1885 in order for frank to do a european tour which was somewhat happening among college-educated women of that day. but it also gave her the opportunity to purchase her
trusseau, much of which was purchased in france including the famous house of worth. worth was actually an englishman who had moved to paris and had opened a couturier there. his clothing was very highly in demand. part of the reason was he was very interested and very good at looking at fabric and learning how to match up fabric pieces to get a seamless look from one fabric piece to another. but also the kind of cut and color that he chose with his clothing. one of the things that worth was also presumably responsible for, and we'll get to a little more of that story in just a minute, was this contraption that women wore on the back of their clothing known as a bustle. and the way that i like to describe as a bustle is just look at one of those old style catcher mitts. excuse me, catcher masks. not the ones now with the rim across here, but when it was just basically a wire cage across the catcher's face, just picture that on somebody's backside. that's sort of what a bustle was.
but the reason why the designers liked the bustle was guess what? more fabric. yes. so it was more money for them. the word got out about cleveland's engagement to this young frances folsom about the time they were returning from europe at the end of may in 1886. the original plan was for them to marry at her grandfather's farm in folsomdale, new york. it would have been her father's father. frances's father was killed when frances had just turned 11 years old. but the grandfather had passed away while the folsoms were en route. so the decision was made for them to get married in the white house. it was what you might say a throw-together affair put together by cleveland's sister, rose, who had acted as his hostess for the first season. well, when the public gets hold of this absolutely statuesque blue-eyed, brown-haired beauty, they cannot get enough of her.
and so in spite of all of the clevelands' efforts to try to keep the press at bay, they were hounded even to their honeymoon spot. but frances became an overnight fashion sensation. and again, we're still somewhat in the dolly madison time frame. the only new means of communication is the telegraph. and so we are still looking at people being able to get a visual of this woman and do pencil sketches and write verbal descriptions of what she is wearing. and yet overnight, across the country, people have fallen in love with her and want to imitate her style. one of the things that they wanted to imitate was her hairstyle, which they called a la cleveland. because if you take a look, you can see that it's curled up in the front. she had it piled in the back high on her head in the back, but she actually had a trend a little bit at the nape. and women were going in and asking for that particular style. now, back to the bustle, the
story about the bustle, which i do have in my book, but i've kind of decided maybe after revisiting it, it might be a little bit of an urban legend, but it's still a nice one is that it was a slow news day in the summer in washington when all of congress was adjourned and the clevelands had gone on their summer vacation. and the newspaper reporters and a reporter for the atlanta paper, as a matter of fact, was sitting around with some of his reporter buddies and saying man, you know, we need something that's going to sell papers. and they came up with the idea of well, you know what? something about mrs. cleveland always sells. so let's say that she's quit wearing the bustle. and so they go ahead and get the story out that she has quit wearing the bustle. she comes back to washington in september, goes to one of the washington department stores with a friend of hers and goes up to the sales clerk and says, i'd like to see some bustles, please. well, the sales clerk looks at her and says, why, mrs. cleveland, ever since word got out that you quit wearing the bustle, nobody has asked for
them. we've moved them to the basement. but if you want to see one, we will go down and get one for you to look at. well, frances looked at her friend and said well, you know what? if they've said that i've stopped wearing the bustle, i guess i have. and so she went out the next day, took her clothes to her dressmaker and had them all tered. this is frank in the second administration. the clevelands are the only presidential couple to serve two nonconsecutive terms. frank married grover during the first term. they won the popular vote in the 1888 election. but cleveland lost new york, the state of which he had been governor, and therefore lost the electoral vote. but they came back and were re-elected in 1882, get into the white house in 1893. by that time, as you can see from this photograph, frank has put on a little bit of weight. she has already had one child.
she is expecting her second child when cleveland is inaugurated. that daughter, esther, is the only presidential child to be born in the white house. she would have a third child while they were still in the white house, and she was expecting their fourth child when she left. so obviously, her figure changed a little bit over the years. frank was also criticized for wearing sleeveless and decollete, low necklines. it's interesting where the bulk of the criticism came from. it came from the women's christian temperance union headed by a woman by the name of mary willard. mary willard was the aunt of katherine willard. katherine willard was frank's roommate at wells college. apparently the relationship wasn't close enough to keep the wctu off of frank about her clothing styles. which is why i particularly appreciate the dress that frank decided to wear for her official portra
portrait. it's almost like a little bit of i'm going to wear what i want to wear. and so she is immortalized for us in a sleeveless low neckline gown. so let's fast forward now to grace coolidge and the styles from what we've looked at before to grace coolidge who comes into the white house when harding dies in august of 1923. we have gotten what we now call the flapper era. but if you've been looking at the clothing, you'll notice there's a lot more to the flapper era than just being a flapper. of course, one of the things that changes with this type of clothing is it's more straight line, almost a little bit boyish or androgynous in look. grace is a very petite woman, fit these styles perfectly. she looked beautiful in them and was considered a fashion plate from the very beginning. some of the other things you see is obviously we're starting to use less fabric. and we are, in some respects, the tailoring is very different.
calvin coolidge was not only known as silent cal, but he was also known as tight-fisted cal. he was a penny pincher. according to one of his biographers, he would complain to the white house staff if they went over budget on meals that were prepared for him because the president and his family have to pay out of their own pockets for the meals that are exclusively for them. but calvin coolidge had one extravagance, and that was his wife, grace. and he would spare no expense to have her look good and was often seen going to milliners in washington to select hats for her and often had had comments about her dresses. very positive comments, i would add. we don't see too much on the political side with regard to grace coolidge. one of the things that makes her interesting as we start to move forward beginning with our next first lady that we're going to look at which is our lou hoover
is that she really is, in my opinion, what i would call our last officially traditional first lady in that her one accomplishment which was a very serious one was to get congressional appropriation to begin a major remodeling of the white house which had not been done since the theodore roosevelt administration when they had done some redesign of the building itself. this is another picture of grace in a different type of style. she absolutely loved animals. she had a pet dog. and by the way, prohibition had already gone into effect at this point. she wasn't a strong proponent of prohibition, although we don't have any record of her serving alcohol in the white house against the law, similar to what we allegedly have regarding the hardings, their predecessors. but the name of her dog is after a mixed drink called rob roy. and she has rob roy in her official portrait, too.
and coolidge, for as much as he loved how his wife dressed, was a little bit uncomfortable with red which, of course, is a power color. and he really -- he made the comment after he saw the painting of why didn't you wear a white dress and let the dog be painted red? which now brings us to lou henry hoover. and i put lou in the category of our first modern -- of our truly modern first ladies because for those of you that live in this area and have had an opportunity to perhaps see other exhibits that have been here at the hoover, you know that she was extremely independent. she had strong leadership characteristics, all the things that tom said about her in the introduction. and we see this also in terms of her clothing choices. but one of the things that is not remembered about lou which i think is kind of sad is that lou was considered one of the best dressed women in washington, d.c. i think that we sometimes forget
that herbert hoover came back from his relief work in europe to serve under the wilson administration in 1917. and he was pretty much here serving one person or another until he became president himself in 1928. and entered the white house in 1929. lou was very much in the washington social circle to the extent that she wasn't in california or working with her girl scouts. but lou was considered to be a tremendous style icon emulated and believed to be one of the best dressed women in washington. she is also, when she became first lady, one of the first -- excuse me, the first lady to be photographed for "vogue" magazine. and "vogue" does a photo shoot on every first lady now. so this is one of her dresses. this is a day dress. again, we can see that that soft dressing style that began to show with grace coolidge is still dominating when she is first lady.
these are some photographs, and i want to give a special appreciation to marcus eckhart here on the staff of the hoover who went up into storage and pulled two dresses for me so that i could show you some of the detail of the things that lou wore. lou had an exquisite eye for style and for color. these are things that sometimes are not remembered. this particular dress is actually in gold beads -- excuse me, glass beads. and gold trim. and it is the work -- you can see with this close-up, this is very careful closehand embroidery work. the other dress, which i just absolutely love almost to the point where i wish i could have one for myself, see what i said? we will emulate our first ladies if we see something that we like -- is the dress that is known as the fan dress. and this dress is actually made
of silver metallic thread with the purple threads weaving through it to create the fans. and then you have the -- these are red and blue stones that are embroidered into the bottom. and that is a close-up of the hem. and you can see the detail on that, on that dress and the weaving that's in that. and that's a close-up of the fabric where you can see the detail in the fan design and between the silver threads and the purple. the dress that i showed earlier -- let me back up real quick on that. okay. this is a scarf that was from a gold and silver satin dress that lou wore -- she actually wore it before she became first lady, but we have a handwritten note in her archives that says that it was her favorite dress to wear to receptions in the white house. so i think it's important for us
to know that, you know, lou, in addition to all of her many, many other accomplishments, had a tremendous eye for color and for style. a lot of times she sketched designs of the dresses that she wanted. she was an incredible artist. and so you can see that in terms of the high quality of the clothing that she selected and in her color choices. this gown is muslin. it's made of cotton. because this is a black and white photo and not a close-up, there are actually blue flowers embroidered in it. lou wore this, as far as i'm able to tell from the archives, to a reception that was held for the cabinet departments of labor and he agriculture in february of 1932. it raised an incredible amount of eyebrows. because washington fashion was all aghast at the fact that she
wasn't wearing satin. she wasn't wearing velvet. she wasn't wearing brea ining b. she's wearing cotton. but the idea behind lou's wearing cotton was to promote the cotton industry because any of you that are in agriculture and you heard that i'm also in agriculture, you know that the prices that farmers were getting for their crops at that time were not good, and they were not able to earn a living wage. and lou used this dress as a way to encourage americans to purchase more cotton garments and use more cotton to be able to improve the cotton market for the farmers. and there were several write-ups in the paper about her promoting that. what we begin to see with grace coolidge and then it's carried forward with lou henry hoover is the beginnings of moving away from buying parisian fashions, buying couture from non-american
designers. the last first lady prior to these two who bought something from france as far as we can document was edith wilson. you have that particular suit here in the exhibit. it was a suit made by the house of worth for her. but we begin to see in grace and again in lou, interesting, buying american both in terms of where the fabric is made and also who was doing the dress designing. so we're going to fast forward to mamie eisenhower, the other iowa first lady. this is a portrait of mamie. it's also hanging in the exhibit. and the lights on here are not letting that pink show through. but this is in her signature mamie pink. interestingly enough, and there are a lot of gowns of mamie wearing low necklines and sleeveless, and i can't find any criticism of her on that. but when mamie came into office,
the american public really, really fell in love with her. after the turmoil of world war ii and then the korean war when the eisenhowers came into office at the beginning of 1953, there was this sense that maybe the country could, you know, go back to some level of normalcy. and so they really -- the american public and women particularly kind of saw in mamie this idea of what i would like to call the every woman. she was somebody other women could relate to. she dressed like they did. they had trouble with her hair, so she had to have the bangs. it was just, you know, people felt like they could relate and connect with her. i think one of the reasons why that was the case is because the 1952 election was the very first time that either political party spe specifically used the wife of the presidential candidate, and in this particular case, the wife of a vice presidential candidate as well, so that would have been pat nixon. but they targeted the women's
vote specifically. it probably also helped that adlai stevenson was a bachelor, and he was eisenhower's running mate. just a couple of interesting comments about this dress, this dress is made from the house of nettie rosenstein. nettie rosenstein was an austrian immigrant to this country back in 1890. she developed her own fashion house, thought about going out of business about 1931, but her dress designs were so desired that some of the major high-end department stores such as i-m i-magnon said would you zpin lines for us? so she went back into business. for you women that have heard the thing called little black dress, you can either thank or blame nettie rosenstein for that. she is presumably the designer who came up with the idea of every woman needs to have a little black dress in her closet. one of the interesting things about this particular dress is
that it was designed for mrs. eisenhower by nettie's sister-in-law, ava rosencrans who also was a seamstress. she is joined her sister to help make clothes before she was her sister-in-law and then met nettie's brother and married him. the other thing you can see is the handbag. the handbag was made by a woman now well known, if you follow fashion, but very unknown at the time, the woman's name was judith liber. judith liber was a hungarian jewish holocaust survivor who married one of eisenhower's troops when gersen liber came to europe as part of the liberation forces and then the occupation in 1946. liber came back to this country, got back into what she had been doing before they had been involved with -- actually, what saved liber's life was that she
was a seamstress, and the germans had put her and her sisters in a job of repairing men's underwear. so that speaks to the condition of what was happening with the germans in the war because this is toward the end of the war, '44/'45. but it also is what saved her life. so when liber gets to this country, she gets a job with nettie rosenstein. and if you have followed, you'll know that judith liber eventually established her own house which she sold several years ago. this is another picture of mamie. again, one of the things that women really liked about her was she was always very well put together. she had a good eye for simplicity and jewelry, good eye for style, good eye for color and just an immensely, immensely popular first lady. and likely would still be remembered something as a fashion icon if she hadn't been
succeeded by, yes, jacqueline kennedy. who was considerably younger than mamie eisenhower and who originally had no problems buying from the french couturier houses until a few things were said about it, and she realized that maybe she had better think about looking for an american designer. so she actually ended up hiring oleg cassini, french born, but he had become an american citizen. there are stories out that when jack was running for the presidency in 1960, that some friends of jackie allegedly said to her, jackie, you're a little bit too high toned, a little bit too snappy. women are going to be upset with you because of your hairstyle and the way you dress. and jackie in what is really a very fair question for every first lady to ask is why do people care about my hair? it's my husband who's running for president.
but they finally convinced her that maybe her hairstyle would have an impact. and she said, well, i know what i'll do. i'll wear hats. jackie is well known today, obviously, for her impeccable, impeccable taste in clothing. she had a strong eye for the things that make fashion important for the way a garment is cut, for the type of fabric that it is made from, from the color choices. this photograph is from jackie on a good will tour that she embarked on with her sister, lee, in india and pakistan. this is taken when they have toured the grave of nehru -- excuse me, gandhi. and one of the things i thought was interesting about this photo and why i selected it for today is because one of the things that i read about her is that she would -- when she -- when she and the president or when she alone went on this tour to go overseas, that she study the
fashions and the colors of those countries. and so you can see that she is in this particular outfit, she's wearing a white outfit that allows her not to stand out from either the ambassador who's she's with which is the gentleman to her left and the indian official who is the gentleman to her right. and she just fits right in instead of standing out from the group. similarly, this is also taken from the india tour. if you can see her in the middle here. this is actually at a fashion show in india of women in sewing as a cottage industry. what i thought was very interesting is if you can tell from the dress that the model who's walking across the front here of the photograph, what she's wearing, and can see what mrs. kennedy is wearing, you can see a lot of similarities. but again, jackie is blending in with her group even though we can rest assured that those clothes cost a whole lot more
than what was being made by the cottage industry. but it was not only her sense of style but what she learned about her sense of presence as she was first lady that really made her a fashion icon. this particular picture is taken at the national gallery of art. you may recall that jackie and jack went to france to meet with charles de gaulle, that she was such a sennation over there, partly because of her eye for design, but also because she was fluent in french, and so jack kennedy was just so awed by how successful his wife had been that he made the speech that he said "i am the man who accompanied jacqueline kennedy to paris." but one of the things that jackie kennedy did during that visit was to talk to this gentleman who's over here right underneath the portrait -- or the painting of the mona lisa, and he was the french minister of culture. and she asked him to be willing to let the mona lisa to come to
be exhibited in the united states. this is france's tremendous painting treasure. and the idea of it being transported over the ocean and hanging in american galleries required a lot of choreography. one of the things that's interesting is that when the kennedys were in paris and were attending the diplomatic dinners there, jackie wore garments that were made by french designers. when she came back and they're hosting this event for the unveiling of the mona lisa here in this country, this particular gown was made by cassini who was considered an american. which gets us to jackie's successor, lady bird johnson. and lady bird, much like mamie, has the unenviable task to have succeeded jackie kennedy. and so as a result, she, too, is somewhat forgotten as somebody who also had an understanding of what she looked good in. and so i really love lady bird
in this red suit. i like the color. i like the design. i like the cut. i like how comfortable she looks in this. but one of the other things that i really liked about how comfortable she looks is this picture of her at the ranch. and we are starting to see our first ladies appear in photographs in pants. we had seen some of jackie kennedy, but a lot of that was usually if they were out on a boat or in her riding habit. this particular photograph of lady bird really begins to show that first ladies are allowing themselves to be photographed in more relaxed settings and in more natural settings. a lot of lady bird's -- lady bird, as lou hoover, grace coolidge, mamie eisenhower stuck primarily with american designers, one of her close designe designers, another one was jeffrey bean. so we are beginning to see our first ladies use names that become better known to the
american public and are working with them to get style, style consulting and clothing to help promote the american fashion industry. one woman who tremendously promoted the american fashion industry was betty ford. and i think it's important to realize that betty ford's tenure in the white house was relatively short. the fords came in in august of 1974 upon the resignation of richard nixon. and ford did not win a term in his own right, so they were out in january of 1977. betty ford had been a model. she had worked in the fashion industry in department stores. she had a very innate understanding of what looked good on her and what looked good on others. but one of the things that she did that was really important because those of you who are old enough to remember, you will recall that our economy, when ford took office, was in terrible shape. our interest rates were going
from 10% to 11% to 12% to 13%. ford attempted this campaign called win, whip inflation now. it didn't whip inflation, but it was his effort. that betty ford felt that one of the things that she could do was make a fashion statement about how you could look great and not spend a lot of money. and so she found a designer by the name of -- and i hope i get this right -- albert caprera who designed on a house on seventh avenue in new york, seventh avenue being the garment district in manhattan. and the price range for caprera's garments ranged from $50 to $300. and these were the types of fashions that betty ford bought and that she wore. and so that she could american women also to buy american. the american fashion industry totally loved her. and the parsons school of design gave her an award in their appreciation for all that she was doing to promote american
fashion. so many of you, if you're my age or older, will remember burnt orange as one of the colors of the time. i couldn't find something for her in lime green, but it's there. but i absolutely love this black and white gown. and again, just her eye for fashion and color and what makes her look good, she was a stunning woman with a great eye for clothing. so we get to nancy reagan, and i would have loved to have some photos of her in her gowns and unfortunately wasn't able to locate some that we could use for today's presentation. but fortunately i'm able to get this photo of her in her signature color of red. nancy, as we all know, loved red. it became known as nancy reagan red. i just did a program here yesterday for another group. we were actually looking at items in the white house includiinclude ing china. and the lenox company which made
the reagan dinnerware set talked about how difficult it was to find that very particular shade of nancy reagan red to be able to do the reagan china, and they finally did it. so this was a special color and important to her and the one she looked good in. nancy was also beloved by the american fashion industry and not so beloved by the american public because we thought she was spending way too much money on her clothing. she favors some of the very, very high-end designers such as bill blass. one of the things that she was doing that gained her a lot of criticism is she was accepting haute couture gowns from various designers, wearing them to an event which, of course, then she would be photographed in it, but then she was donating them to museums. so that there would be a record of the type of clothing that we had born at different times in our history. well, unfortunately, there were those in the american public who felt that what she was doing was
wrong. and there is a letter that she ended up sending out when she received letters of criticism saying that she was going to stop the practice, but that she would continue to donate her own garments, things that she had purchased herself to museums so that examples of clothing from the 18 -- excuse me, the 1980s would be available in museums. and i don't think that we can bypass hillary rodham clinton. who has made the pant suit a very accessible form of dress for women. hillary, as we know, went through a lot of struggles with her fashion. and i think part of the politics of that was that hillary was going through a lot of struggles with who she was as first lady. she came into the white house sort of hoping that she was going to continue as the confidante and adviser to her husband because that was the partnership and the relationship
that they had kind of ironed out. we are a relatively conservative country in a lot of ways, and that was something that the american public wasn't real happy with. we suffered through a whole lot of stories about hillary with her hair. hillary with her hats. hillary with her color choices. but finally somebody somewhere along the way got hold of her and pointed out hey, you look really good in a pant suit. and you look really good in a pant suit when the hemline of the jacket comes below the hips because if you've ever seen hillary in a dress, you will notice that she's actually a little stocky with thick-set legs. and so she finally, as time went on, and you really see this when she runs for the senate and in her run in 2008 to try to get the democratic presidential nomination, she began to understand who she was, what she looked good in, and when she felt comfortable with herself, then others began to feel comfortable with her. and i think that that's really the whole story behind whatever
we choose to wear. when we are comfortable with how we look, we communicate that. and others become comfortable with us automatically. which kind of gets us to our last first lady who has, from the very beginning, expressed the fact that she is extremely comfortable with who she is. and that is michelle obama. and michelle obama has, from the get-go, become a tremendous fashion icon. there are all kinds of blogs out there about what she wears. there are blogs about her jewelry choices. there are blogs about what she buys at j. crew. there are blogs about how to dress affordably and look like michelle obama. by the way, we are still conservative. she was criticized to getting this first official photograph in a sleeveless dress. but michelle obama has really started -- and it will be interesting to see what will happen with our next first lady. but she has really begun to transform the idea of fashion for american women with what we will call the high/low dressing.
she can -- andhat's not what you put on your salad. she will wear the very expensive jimmy choo shoes with an outfit she bought from j. crew. she will accessorize with thing from target and purchase a designer dress or a designer outfit from one of the up and coming american designers. so michelle obama has set a lot of fashion styles. it's very clear from the way that she is active and physically involved and encouraging physical activity, but how she radiates when she is at diplomatic events or giving a speech that she understands that her look communicates a highly confident woman and a woman who knows the image that she is creating. and even to the point where she has gone to bangs. i want to thank you, and i believe we've got some questions possibly. so i'm going to open the floor.
thank you. >> you haven't said much about the wigs or hairpieces that they wear. i understand they have as many as 20 that they can wear at any time. do you know much about that? >> who are you referring to? the earlier first lady? >> most of the later ones, i think. >> i'll have to say that if that's the case, that's not anything i have come across in any of the reading i've done. so that's new to me. >> okay. i kind of believe that some of those are hairpieces and wigs. >> well. they may be. as you know, a first lady cannot
get away with a bad hair day. >> i have a question. i wondered if you have read the book mrs. lincoln's dress maker. >> no, i'm sorry, i have not. >> it's a good read. >> that's what i understand. thank you for suggesting it. >> i have a sense that, i have a sense that mrs. obama has helped us to accept dresses again. and so no matter what level of dress we can find one now, and there was a whole period of many years when it was very, very difficult.
could you speak to that? >> yeah. that's a really good observation. i think you are correct, you know, i've already discussed hillary with pantsuits. i didn't talk about laura bush. but laura bush really graff stated to pantsuits throughout the bush years. so i think you're making a good point. and you're right. if -- if michelle obama is not involved with say the let's move pe or out there with gardening, you do see her a lot in dresses. and whereas i am obviously not partial to dresses myself, i will say that one of my daughters who can, you know, wear some of the styles that michelle obama also wears, she wears almost exclusively dresses, and i have noticed that with a lot of other young women. i think it's a great, great point. thank you very much.
>> i noticed that michelle obama tends to wear sweaters instead of jackets. and particularly at the second inauguration it struck me that she was wearing a sweater that seemed to be skimpy is the word that comes to mind. a very, very small cut. and it seems to me that this is quite a departure for official events to wear a sweater instead of a jacket. what's your comment about that? >> you know, first of all, that's going to be her fashion taste. i think one of the things that's kind of interesting. and this is something that, you know, i've picked up on my reading is that a lot of the reason why women wear some type of female tailored version of what men wear was in order to, you know, feel like they could compete with men in the employment realm. speaking personally, if i hadn't had to be miked up, you might have seen me in a sweater.
i prefer the more feminine dressing myself and i prefer the softer dressing, and i think that's michelle. i think she's being feminine. i think she's softer. she's michelle obama, and i realize that, you know, formally she's mrs. barack obama, but i think what she's trying to say is, you know, to take from an o old '70s song. >> first lady in the heart of the depression. can you speak a little bit to her fashion? >> there wasn't much. that really isn't fair. eleanor when she dressed up, if you look at her gowns, they were quite beautiful. some of the reason why those -- she doesn't look all that great really has more to do with we were still somewhat in the
dropped waistline style, which did not look good on her. she was also a little bit of an older woman. she'd had a lot of children. we weren't wearing corsets anymore. and we weren't necessarily wearing a lot of undergarments that could help, you know, lift and separate, if you get my drift. so i think some of that was eleanor dressed when she had to and didn't worry about it when she didn't have to. >> i think that exhausts the question. so let's give a round of applause to annette. >> thank you. >> thank you. thank you.
>> and there'll be book sales and signings in the lobby. safe travels. thank you for coming. you're watching american history tv all weekend every weekend on c-span 3. we're also featured on holidays and during congressional recess recesses. saturday at 8:55 p.m. eastern, historian peter henryque. looks at how washington's response to arnold's failed plan to deliver west point to the british offers insights about washington's leadership and character. and that's at 8:55 p.m. eastern time on saturday here on c spab 3.
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>> each week, american artifacts takes viewers into archives, museums and historic sites around the country. next, we visit ft. mchenry national monument and historic shrine in baltimore to learn about the birth of the star-spangled banner. 2014 marks the 200th anniversary of the fort during the war of 1812. the raising of the flag over the fort on the morning after the barrage inspired francis scott key to write the words that later became our national anthem. >> that's a huge flag. >> welcome to ft. mchenry. chief of interpretation here at the birthplace of the star-spangled banner. at nighttime, fly a small modern flag. during the day, we fly the 15-star, 15-stripe flag. the same style as the one that inspired francis scott key to write the national anthem. key saw that flag at a unique i