Thursday, April 17th, 2014
Facebook / Twitter / Tumblr / Podcast

Blog

Deja Vu

January 9, 2013

Best Dressed

Tags:
,
,
,

Content on this page requires a newer version of Adobe Flash Player.

Get Adobe Flash player

2012: The Smithsonian Museum of American History has long been home to a collection of gowns worn by first ladies to inaugural balls, but a Washington Post story about the creators of those memorable dresses wonders if being chosen to design for the wives of American presidents might not be a career-maker after all:

“Designing the inaugural gown doesn’t guarantee anything but exposure,” says New York retail and brand consultant Robert Burke. “It doesn’t guarantee success.” At least not the household-name, big-brand, big-money kind.

For the past 20 years, the designers of the Smithsonian-destined inaugural gowns—only first-term dresses receive that honor—have been little-known men and one woman who had yet to be tested on the national stage. In the aftermath of the hoopla, they were dealt some bruising blows. Hillary Rodham Clinton turned to Sarah Phillips, a 37-year-old New York designer whose company was then only about three years old. After creating Clinton’s violet mousseline gown, Phillips went out of business. Laura Bush relied on her loyal Dallas-based dressmaker Michael Faircloth for her inaugural gown. Afterward, with the attention of the entire fashion industry on him, Faircloth crafted a ready-to-wear collection for the New York runway. But fate had different plans, and he never made it to the big city.


1888: Frances Folsom Cleveland, the twenty-one-year-old bride of president Grover Cleveland threw the national society press into turmoil when she appeared at inaugural events in dresses without bustles, a startling move for any stylish woman of the Victorian era. A Chicago Tribune story wondered what impact Mrs. Cleveland's sartorial adventures might have on the shopping public:

Just at present the pro-bustle women appear to have the best of it. The bustle is not to go. That is not for many a day. Mrs. Cleveland may toss her bustle into the attic of the White House if she likes, but Chicago women, Democrats as well as Republicans, will cling to the pannier.

“We are not alarmed,” said a Chicago dressmaker upon hearing about Mrs. Cleveland's inaugural costume. “Let me tell you something. The cloaks and wraps for the fall and winter trade for all Christendom are now made or are in the factories. They are made for bustles. Therefore, bustles will remain, though all the first ladies and Queens were to declare otherwise.
Bookmark and Share
Love this? Subscribe to Lapham's Quarterly today.

Post a Comment

Note: Several minutes will pass while the system is processing and posting your comment. Do not resubmit during this time or your comment will post multiple times.

RSS
RSS
Recent Posts
  1. Hair Apparent — 03/31/2014: Western media speculates on North Korean grooming standards; in 1698, Peter the Great taxes beards.
  2. Golden Menageries — 02/24/2014: In Ukraine, an ousted leader’s menagerie is exposed; in 1794, France wonders about the place of caged animals in the new republic.
  3. Right of Return — 02/12/2014: A new law encourages the return of Sephardic Jews to Spain; in 1492, Ferdinand and Isabella issue an edict with long-lasting consequences.
Deja Vu Archive
  1. April 2014
  2. March 2014
  3. February 2014
Blogroll
The brutalities of progress are called revolutions. When they are over we realize this: that the human has been roughly handled, but that it has advanced.
Victor Hugo, 1862
Events & News
January 27 / Purchase tickets for "Death & Comedy" a celebration of readings from our two most recent issues at Joe's Pub. More
Apropos

Vague Premonitions

The Great Beyond

Subscribe
Current Issue Revolutions Spring 2014
Blogs
Audio & Video
LQ Podcast:
Cesar Chavez
The life of the twentieth-century labor leader is recounted by author Miriam Pawel, who tells the full story of Chavez’s life and work in her new book, The Crusades of Cesar Chavez.
Eponym
Lewis H. Lapham is Editor of Lapham's Quarterly. He also serves as editor emeritus and national correspondent for Harper's magazine.
Recent Issues