From Martha to Melania, the first ladies of the United States have ranged from housewives to politicians to fashion models. Each first lady represents a different time period and, with each of those time periods, the popular styles and trends of women’s fashion in America.
While high fashion is all about how clothing looks when draped over the human body, there is more to trends in clothing than appearance. Specific styles mark times in history.
Popular fashion can be linked to the societal norms, changes, and hardships of a specific year or decade. It tells us about the economic status of the country, different waves of feminism, and what people of all races, genders, classes, and even regions of the country were going through at certain moments in history.
It’s normal, for example, to associate the “Roaring ’20s” with short, fringe-decorated flapper dresses, nylons, fancy hats with netting covering the eyes, and costume jewelry. These famous trends of the ’20s were a dramatic shift from the long gowns of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, thus making the decade a marking point for new shifts in feminist ideologies, music (especially jazz), more correspondence between Eastern and Western cultures, and brief economic prosperity.
Like the ’20s, each decade is unique, and each first lady represents the uniqueness of American culture throughout time.
The following images depict various first ladies in chronological order, sporting trendy, time-specific attire.