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Sep 08, 2022 Washington, D.C.

The White House Historical Association today released the 66th issue of its award-winning magazine, White House History Quarterly. Style makes history at the White House, and with this issue – the Quarterly’s third to focus on fashion – the Association looks at a transformational period of fifty years, 1960 to 2010, when America’s first ladies began to communicate through style more than ever before.

Marcia Anderson, editor of the Quarterly, explains, "Each official step made by a first lady is photographed and broadcast, interpreted and analyzed, criticized, and praised; wardrobe and hair do not escape the scrutiny. The unrelenting attention brings daunting challenges, but the potential to communicate with a captivated public is a powerful tool, which the new Quarterly reflects."

Included in this issue:

  • Lauren McGwin, the Association's Editorial and Production Director, opens the issue with the life and work of Jean Louis Mazéas, once dubbed the “coiffure king of the Great Society.” The creator of Jacqueline Kennedy’s “modified bouffant,” Jean Louis continued his White House work through the Johnson administration and styled the hair for two White House brides.
  • Fashion Historian Kimberly Chrisman-Campbell traces the unexpected style journey of Lady Bird Johnson, who suddenly became first lady with little fashion experience. Relying heavily on Neiman-Marcus and slowly overcoming a reluctance to invest in the necessary wardrobe for her public role, Mrs. Johnson survived comparisons to Mrs. Kennedy by discovering her own innate style. By the end of her husband’s presidency, Mrs. Johnson reflected that she had become “seduced” by the world of clothes.
  • Rebecca Durgin Kerr, the Association’s Editorial Coordinator, tells the story of Nancy Reagan’s long collaboration with designer James Galanos. Remembered now for her elegant timeless style, Mrs. Reagan explained, “I don’t go for the latest look. I try to choose clothes that look good today but that will also look good tomorrow.” Most comfortable in red, which she considered “a pick me upper,” Mrs. Reagan empathized with the interest in her clothes but made it known that when she wasn’t “on display” she dressed as “casually as possible.”
  • Historian Mary Jo Binker relates how the savvy first lady, Barbara Bush, “used her clothing to telegraph approachability, caring, and warmth.” She won the public’s affection by confronting anticipated media criticism of her wrinkles and white hair with humor and confidence. Mrs. Bush relied on her friend and designer Arnold Scaasi to create her signature look, explaining that when wearing his designs, “I know then that I look as good as I can.”
  • Historian Erika Cornelius Smith recounts how First Lady Laura Bush chose to reserve high fashion for special events and as a tool for advocacy. With a personal commitment to women’s health, Mrs. Bush donned the Red Dress pin, became the ambassador for The Heart Truth campaign, and saved lives as a result. She later reflected, “I realized the degree to which I had a unique forum as first lady. People would pay attention to what I said.”
  • Curator Carson Poplin writes of First Lady Michelle Obama’s wholly new approach to personal style. By mixing high and low fashion and shopping on-line and off-the-rack, she was admired for her “attainable” example. She dared to mix patterns and bold colors, and launched the careers of young and diverse designers. For her look, Mrs. Obama often relied on stylist Meredith Koop, who explained, “You have to celebrate fashion but also be aware of the message people are going to take away.”
  • Historian Christina Ewald recounts her own experience creating a precise replica of the iconic red dress worn by First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy on her televised tour of the White House. The issue concludes with a visit to the First Ladies Hall at the Smithsonian Institution. A popular exhibit for more than a century, the hall goes beyond the lines and colors and artistry to preserve the story of each woman’s contribution to White House history.

This 120-page issue of White House History Quarterly retails for $12.95. To purchase a single issue, visit shop.whitehousehistory.org; visit whitehousehistoryjournal.org to subscribe.

To request an advance copy of White House History Quarterly #66, or to interview the individuals listed above, please contact press@whha.org.

About White House History Quarterly

White House History Quarterly, published by the White House Historical Association since 1983, is now in its sixty-sixth issue. The Quarterly strives to present the broadest view of this personal American subject—the White House—featuring memoir, biography, history, and cultural context as it opens the doors of “America’s House” to America. Issues are thematic, shaped to tell a story from a particular angle, and the themes—from music, theater, fashion, art, entertaining, flowers and gardens, kitchens and cooking, presidential journeys and travel, memoir, and presidential kin and presidential sites—suggest the broad scope of the content. With editorial offices in Washington, D.C., at the Association's row house facing Lafayette Park across from the White House, White House History Quarterly is published four times each year. One, two, or three-year subscriptions, single copies, and bound collections of back issues are available.

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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 nonprofit, nonpartisan 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 $50 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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