Politics aside, the Inaugural gowns that have passed through the White House over the years have been nothing short of impressive. And just like the politics of those who have taken on the role of president, style has ebbed and flowed, too.
And nowhere is this fashion on display more than at the Presidential Inaugurations. While the gents’ suit cuts have changed, that’s nothing compared to the evolution of the style of the First Ladies.
From Eleanor Roosevelt‘s nightgown-ish number in 1941, to Michelle Obama‘s game-changing Jason Wu gown in 2009, discover some of the most memorable outfits that former First Ladies have worn to the Inaugural Ball in this retrospective gallery.
The incredible evolution of Inaugural gowns
Eleanor Roosevelt, 1933The loose, light blue lamé gown that Eleanor Roosevelt wore in 1933 was fashion-forward in the 30s—chic and proper. It's forever on display at the National Museum of American History, too.Getty Images
Eleanor Roosevelt, 1941These days, Eleanor's gown from the 1941 inauguration ball looks a bit more like a nightgown. But we're certain she turned heads at the time.Getty Images
Mamie Eisenhower, 1953We're not sure what's more impressive: Mamie's incredible ball gown dotted with rhinestones, or her jewelled purse, embellished with over 3,000 pearls. Do we have to choose?Getty Images
Jacqueline Kennedy, 1961Fashion loved Jackie Kennedy as much as she loved it. The long gloves and sleek gown designed by Oleg Cassini was the original white White House dress—Nancy Regan (1981), Michelle Obama (2009), and Melania Trump (2017) have all since followed suit.Getty Images
Lady Bird Johnson, 1965The yellow satin gown, with its winged cap sleeves, that Claudia Alta "Lady Bird" Johnson opted for in 1965 was a simple and refreshing change from the frilly gowns worn by past First Ladies.Getty Images
Pat Nixon, 1969Pat Nixon's canary yellow Harvey Berin gown, with its cinched waist was fit for royalty, but it's the Swarovski-decorated crop blazer that we won't ever get enough of.Getty Images
Rosalynn Carter, 1977Nowadays, we praise celebs and royalty alike for recycling outfits, but when Rosalynn Carter chose to rewear this gold-trim get-up to the 1977 Inaugural Ball, the world wasn't so pleased. Just ahead of your time is all, Rosalynn.Getty Images
Nancy Reagan, 1981Ethereal and elegant best describe the dress that Nancy Reagan wore to her husband's 1981 Inauguration. We adore this white, one-shoulder gown and often wonder if this is where Michelle Obama and Jason Wu drew inspiration.Getty Images
Hillary Clinton, 1993Hillary has been to her share of political get togethers, and she shone brightly at many, but perhaps none more so than at her husband Bill's '93 Inauguration Ball. She wore a shimmering violet lace gown by New York designer Sarah Phillips that looked as amazing then as it would today.Getty Images
Laura Bush, 2001Laura Bush opted for red in 2001, which, when compared to First Ladies before her, was a bold choice. It worked, though, and Laura looked the very definition of sophistication next to her president husband. We wonder if Barbara Bush gave her any pointers...Getty Images
Michelle Obama, 2009Michelle Obama had a major impact on the fashion world, perhaps more than any other FLOTUS before her. The white, one-shoulder, floral-appliqued Jason Wu gown she wore alongside her man Barack in 2009 will go down as one of the all-time greats.Getty Images
Melania Trump, 2017While Donald opted for more of a “retro" look (go figure), Melania looked mature and demure in a perfectly modern gown that she helped design with Hervé Pierre, the former creative director of Carolina Herrera.Getty Images