Carter’s fashion statements were emphatic exclamation points on the notion that a First Lady was more than a fashion icon. After decades of haute Presidential wives, the 70’s recession-era Carter got back to basics. First, she bucked the traditional motorcade and walked to the White House during the daytime inaugural festivities in 1977. Then, that evening, she made news with an off-the-rack inauguration gown that she’d previously worn. She had donned the baby blue chiffon dress and accompanying embroidered coat at Jimmy Carter’s inauguration as Governor of Georgia six years before.
The dedicated mental health activist didn’t have much interest for bold fashion, and focused her attention to policy initiatives that represented her own interests and those of the President. The Miller Center notes how these actions “helped further the notion that a First Lady could be more than just a social director and a fashion plate.” She also foreshadowed another recession First Lady–Michelle Obama had worn her Michael Kors election night dress on three previous occasions.
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