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Jan 16, 2019 Washington, D.C.

This February, the White House Historical Association will release a new issue of its award-winning White House History Quarterly. “Fashion and the First Ladies in the Mid-20th Century White House, White House History Number 52” explores the evolving fashions of first ladies from the 1930s to the 1970s and influences including the economy, war, social change, patriotism, and politics. This fascinating issue will be available for purchase at shop.whitehousehistory.com upon release and includes these articles:

  • Jewelry Designer Ann Hand, known as the “nation’s jeweler,” shares her personal account of designing pieces for the first ladies beginning with Lady Bird Johnson. Hand reflects on the styles of Lady Bird Johnson, Hillary Clinton, Nancy Reagan, and Laura Bush. “I never stop feeling grateful when I see a first lady wearing one of my pearl designs,” Hand writes. “The pearl has been referred to as a sign of ‘wisdom acquired through experience,’ and that is exactly how I feel about all the first ladies I’ve come to know and admire.” Ann Hand has also designed jewelry and other items exclusively for The White House Historical Association. Hand’s collection can be seen and purchased from the Association’s White House History Shop here.
  • In “First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt and the Fashion of the 1930s and 40s,” author Morgan Blattenberg examines how Mrs. Roosevelt’s style emulated influences from the Great Depression and WWII. Her clothing was multipurpose, ready-to-wear, with minimal decoration and efficiency in construction. “American women looked to Eleanor Roosevelt to see what she would wear,” Blattenberg writes. “For her, the responsibility to make sure that her fashion choices adhered to governmental regulations was imperative . . . her fashion values influenced American dress in these difficult years and beyond.”
  • Kristen Hunter compares the differing style perspectives and extremely influential fashions of First Ladies Mamie Eisenhower and Jacqueline Kennedy. In “From Mail Order to Haute Couture: The Fashion Styles of Mamie Eisenhower and Jacqueline Kennedy,” Hunter explains that while both first ladies were “style icons heralded for their impeccable fashion,” they differed in how they dressed for the role they both held. When Mrs. Eisenhower became first lady in 1953, she continued to dress as she had as a military wife—fashionably, yet sensibly. . . seeking out bargains and sales . . . . Jacqueline Kennedy, however, carefully planned her image as first lady beginning right after John F. Kennedy’s election as president and soon named Oleg Cassini as her exclusive designer. While Mrs. Eisenhower epitomized the average American wife and mother with her recognizable and attainable clothing, Mrs. Kennedy embodied a new ideal and elite style that American women could aspire toward.”
  • Haley Rivero provides an in-depth examination of the infamous “Jackie Look” with her article “Oleg Cassini, Designer for the First Lady.” Rivero tells the story of the designer Oleg Cassini, who was hired by the first lady to create an exclusive look that would highlight her youth and elegance. This article explores Kennedy’s most infamous garments and their origins as Rivero writes; “Kennedy and Cassini were well-matched, sharing an appreciation for the finer things of life and a childhood influenced by European culture. Their collaboration provided the first lady with a signature look that the public very much wanted to emulate.”
  • “First Lady Betty Ford’s Casual Elegance: The Style of an Ordinary Woman in Extraordinary Times,” by Kristen Skinner, examines the factors that influenced the iconic style of a first lady in the 1970s during years of dramatic inflation. “Betty Ford inherited the national spotlight when her husband Gerald R. Ford became the 38th president of the United States in August, 1974. As first lady, Ford exemplified a modern woman who advocated for women’s rights,” Skinner explains. “Well aware that the nation was watching during difficult economic years, she vowed to purchase affordable clothing, often off-the-rack, which she could wear multiple times.”

This issue’s Presidential Site Feature focuses on Eisenhower’s birthplace in Denison, Texas. President Eisenhower did not know that he was born in Texas until World War II when he became the Supreme Allied Commander in Europe. Since 1958, the site of his birth has been a Texas State Park and today receives around 14,000 visitors annually. In this Presidential Sites Feature, we dive into the preservation efforts behind this historical birthplace.

To request an advance copy of White House History Number 52, contact press@whha.org.

NOTE: Newly featured on WhiteHouseHistory.org: past issues of White House History Quarterly through Number 45 are now available digitally.

About White House History Quarterly

Published four times each year by the White House Historical Association, this publication features articles on White House history, architecture, fine and decorative arts, and gardens, as well as the life stories of White House occupants and their experiences living in the Executive Mansion. Now in its 20th year of regular publication, the Quarterly has won national and regional awards for content and design, and has attracted a loyal readership of both scholars and laymen in the U.S. and abroad. More than 200 scholars, artisans, and former White House employees have written for the Quarterly and historian William Seale is the founding editor.

Issues of White House History Quarterly retail for $9.95. To subscribe, visit whitehousehistory.org or purchase single issues at shop.whitehousehistory.org.

For media inquiries or to receive a press copy of this edition, please contact press@whha.org.

P.D.F. Resources

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About the white house historical association

First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy envisioned a restored White House that conveyed a sense of history through its decorative and fine arts. She sought to inspire Americans, especially children, to explore and engage with American history and its presidents. In 1961, the White House Historical Association was established to support her vision to preserve and share the Executive Mansion’s legacy for generations to come. Supported entirely by private resources, the Association’s mission is to assist in the preservation of the state and public rooms, fund acquisitions for the White House permanent collection, and educate the public on the history of the White House. Since its founding, the Association has given more than $45 million to the White House in fulfillment of its mission. 

To learn more about the White House Historical Association, please visit WhiteHouseHistory.org

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