Rosalynn Carter, 1977
What She Wore: Gold-embroidered sleeveless coat over a gold-trimmed blue chiffon gown, both designed by Mary Matise for Jimmae and purchased off the rack.
What It Meant: Rosalynn is remembered as sending one of the most powerful messages of all First Ladies with her Inaugural Ball look. With the country in the grips of an oil crisis and still in an economic slump, Rosalynn opted to re-wear the dress she’d worn to her husband’s Inauguration as Governor of Georgia.
“She, more than most [First Ladies], made a very pointed gesture with her dress. She was saying ‘I don’t care about this, it’s not important to me while the country is in a recession.” Betts explained.
“It wasn’t a fashion statement,” said Dincuff. “It was a political and social statement.”
However, for some of Rosalynn’s contemporaries, the well-meaning statement backfired. “Her dress raised a lot of criticism because people felt like she wasn’t taking the role as First Lady and the tradition of the inaugural gown and how that symbolized the First Lady’s role as a hostess seriously,” Betts explained.