You don’t have to be a political junkie to see how these women have made their mark on society. Sure, Michelle Obama has made obesity a primary national concern with her ‘Let’s Move’ Campaign, and Betty Ford helped generate awareness about breast cancer. But these three women have also been influencers beyond social issues – they have changed the way women of their generation dress. Perhaps it’s because their fellow first ladies haven’t always set the bar high, or that politics and fashion don’t always overlap, but Jackie Onassis, Betty Ford, and Michelle Obama have become world style icons, each mixing their own personal points of view with the traditionalism that comes with the job. Sure, their choices aren’t the boldest, but all three prove that just because a certain setting requires you to wear a narrow type of attire doesn’t mean you can’t bend the rules a little and inject a lot of your own personality. This Presidents Day, we’re taking the opportunity to learn a thing or two from these admirable women.
By far the first lady with the most renowned iconic style is Jackie Onassis. Not only did she make Chanel a household name, but she demonstrated that American women had inner elegance to be admired. While she was known at first for her pastel dresses and simple pearl necklaces, Jackie’s style was most revolutionary when she wore casual clothes. She made American sportswear chic and made fashion attainable for women across the country. Her most iconic fashion staple was a giant pair of round sunglasses that she combined with a simple pair of white pants and a black sweater. Today, she continues to influence us with the creed that to move freely is sometimes more elegant than to be uncomfortable and constricted. Images of her walking down NY streets in a trench coat tightly tied at the waist grace our inspiration boards time and time again.
Betty Ford may not be the most obvious example of a first lady style icon, but she deserves to be included in this group because of her bold fashion choices that were reflective of what was happening in womenswear of the 1970s. This particular outfit, a head-to-toe striped dress with a mod white belt cinched at her waist, was certainly an unexpected choice for a first lady to make. Betty Ford, although wife to a conservative president, wasn’t afraid to be audacious with her points of view both in fashion and in politics. She had a liberal perspective when it came to health and social issues and was known to wear a few zany outfits: a red jumpsuit with a tall neck, a chartreuse peacoat and a long silk brocade gown. She teaches us that you don’t always have to go the expected route, and that there’s something exhilarating about taking personal style into your own hands and trying new trends.
Michelle Obama needs no introduction when describing her impact on fashion. She’s made more headlines about her sartorial choices than most famous fashion bloggers. In fact, many online magazines such as the Huffington Post have sections specifically dedicated to the current first lady’s personal style. We love that Michelle looks just as good in a Thom Browne coat (and super sexy bangs!) as she does in a dress from Target. Her take on fashion is true to how we dress today: sure, we can splurge on one designer piece, but let’s face it, affordable brands like H&M and Target have some fantastic options that we sometimes prefer to their more expensive counterparts. Most importantly, however, Michelle always looks like she’s having fun – her sense of style never seem overly calculated or stiff.
Whether you identify more with Jackie’s casual sophisticated style, Betty’s daring dress choices, or Michelle’s mix of high and low, we’ve found the perfect products to help you make one of these leading ladies’ stately looks all your own.
Shop Rue: Jackie O: Tortoise Sunglasses // Gold Knot Earrings // Black Turtleneck Sweater // Camel Peacoat with Faux Leopard Collar // Black Top Handle Bag // Black Patent Ballet Shoe // Liquid Eyeliner // Red Lipstick // Betty Ford: 1. Silk Watercolor Scarf // 2. White Handbag // 3. Striped Dress // 4. Coral Nail Polish // 5. Navy Flat // 6.White Belt // Michelle Obama: 1. Silk Brocade Top // 2. Fuchsia Gloves // 3. Gray Tweed Coat // 4. Navy Patent Belt // 5. Mint Pencil Skirt // 6. Navy Patent Pumps