On this Election Day, I wanted to share a lovely article about two of our past first ladies and their fashions. Each American first lady has influenced the lifestyle and fashion of women in their time, Sarah Childress Polk and Edith Galt Wilson are great examples of such first ladies. Sarah Polk had an affinity for the feminine and fitted, while Edith Wilson was often seen in loose-fitting shift dresses.
The First Lady of the United States is a role that has fascinated American women for years. The Constitution does not provide a definition or boundaries for the role of the First Lady, leaving this role up to the interpretation of each one. Each of our country’s leading ladies has brought her title to life in a unique way. First ladies are wives, mothers, hostesses, and advocates. Whether they are entertaining, speaking, traveling, or simply strolling through the White House, they are influencing American women with each decision they make. The extent of their influence is especially evident in the realm of fashion.
With every dress, suit, and hat worn, the First Lady presents an image to the world. She lives in the balance between being the leading lady of the country while also being an average woman that people can relate to. In the 19th century especially, fashion was a key way that these women endeared themselves to America.
Sarah Childress Polk was able to combine both elegance and thrift in an effortless manner. Wife to President James Polk, Sarah grew up in a fashionable and well-educated society as the daughter of a tobacco and cotton planter. She preferred the classic style of the mid-1840s: fitted and feminine. Polk was thrifty and creative, designing her own dress patterns and hiring dressmakers to bring her creations to life. Her basic pattern included a deep V bodice and short, fitted sleeves, leading to a full bell-shaped skirt.
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