Michelle Obama has set a clear tone that her fashion sense will be moderated by these tough economic times. While she may be our new fashion barometer, so too will be her fondness for affordable style.
During the 1930's Depression, our nation welcomed another President who chose to skip the inaugural ball as a symbol of the era's new austerity:
Dressing for the inaugural balls has long been complicated terrain for first ladies arriving during an economic downturn. Too much glamour and the incoming administration will be accused of excess, not enough glitz and the first lady may be branded dowdy.
Michelle Obama, who became a focus on the campaign trail for her style mix from J. Crew to Narciso Rodriguez, hasn't yet disclosed what she will wear to the 10 balls she and her husband plan to attend. Just days after Barack Obama delivered his acceptance speech, designers began submitting sketches to Mrs. Obama's team for potential inaugural gowns.
In 1933, Franklin D. Roosevelt skipped his inaugural ball due to the Great Depression. Eleanor Roosevelt attended alone wearing a simple lavender velvet dress with detachable sleeves. (The president didn't attend any inaugural balls during his four terms in office.)Not all presidential parties were so in-synch with their economic times, while some were in keeping with the mood of the nation:
Calvin Coolidge insisted his wife not repeat outfits, says Ms. Caroli. And while he had a reputation for being stingy, he spent lavishly on his wife's clothing. In 1923 Grace Coolidge signaled a return to glitz in the White House with her bright red flapper-style inaugural gown, the height of roaring 20s style.
Too much glamour during tough economic times can spark criticism. In the midst of recession in 1981, Nancy Reagan wore a range of outfits worth more than $45,000 for inauguration festivities, by most estimates. The former Hollywood hostess chose a one-shouldered cream gown with a sheer beaded overdress designed by James Galanos and borrowed diamond drop earrings and a matching necklace valued at more than $100,000 from jeweler Harry Winston.Depressionaire Divas, though, don't need to shape their fashion sense to such strict standards. A bit of moderation, toned-down glamour, and practical style are always in fashion. Taking our clues from Michelle Obama will make our fashion decisions so appropriate that we won't have to worry about too much glitz!