First Lady Fashion

White House Jewelry Trendsetters
Our First Ladies' personal styles have reflected both their times and their personalities. Julia Grant loved emeralds, sapphires, and rubies––a sign of her Victorian times, perhaps. Nellie Taft, First Lady of the ragtime era, was quite famous for her diamond tiara. Florence Harding covered a less-than-youthful throat wearing a thick velvet choker with a diamond starburst pin from her husband. This fashion statement was chosen by Mrs. Harding's friend Evalyn McLean, who happened to own the Hope Diamond. Eleanor Roosevelt gave the U.S. government the blue aquamarine ring given her by the government of Brazil, as it was a state gift. I find these tidbits very telling about those women and our history, don't you?

Presidential Pearls
Though many gemstones have come and gone through the White House, I always think of pearls when it comes to our First Ladies. Barbara Bush wore a three-strand collar of faux pearls. There are official photos of most twentieth-century First Ladies all wearing pearls. But no one beats the trendsetting style of Jackie. Her famous triple strand of ivory pearls, with its Art Deco clasp, has been reproduced a billion times over as a seriously collectible piece of faux jewelry.

Jackie Kennedy

As First Lady, Jacqueline Kennedy brought a world of fashion to American women. Copies of her triple-strand of pearls are still worn and collected world-wide. Photo courtesy of

Barbara Bush
Barbara Bush was rarely seen without her triple-strand of faux pearls. Reproductions of her pearls were sold as "First Lady" pearls.
Photo courtesy of
Read my pins
But the real triumph in diplomatic fashion is awarded (literally) to former secretary of State Madeleine Albright. She collects and wears vintage pins with meaning, including this Liberty Brooch with clock faces as the eyes. She wore a polar bear on a visit to the Arctic to discuss climate change, and a serpent when meeting Iraqi officials. On January 13, 2010, Albright received the GEM Award of Style by the Jewelry Information Center, who annually recognize celebrities who give special stature to jewelry. Learn more about these unique jewelry statements in Read My Pins, Albright's latest book.

This Liberty Brooch owned by former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright spans a majestic 5 inches. Designed by Gijs Bakker.
Photo by John Bigelow Taylor.

After Albright met Saddam Hussein, his people called her an "unparalleled serpent." She wore this pin to a meeting with Iraqi officials soon after. Photo courtesy of Life.
Modern design for today
Michelle Obama's style makes me think of anything but pearls. She’s already creating a stir in her fashion choices. We haven’t had such style in the Oval Office since Jackie. Whether you love it or hate it, the First Lady’s fashion style is bold and definitive. For the State Dinner Michelle O. wore glam shoulder-brushing chandelier earrings, a signet ring, and an armful of bangles, all designed by Loree Redkin. Michelle O.'s style may not be your thing, but I think it's smart, sophisticated, and modern­––and perhaps the style of jewelry designs you’ve been craving to make for yourself.

Michelle Obama

First Lady Michelle Obama shows modern style at the Inaugural Ball in white gold and diamond ring, bangles, and striking chandelier earrings.

Photo courtesy of Loree Redkin

The Inaugural jewelry was designed by Loree Redkin, who has designed several other pieces for Mrs. Obama. Photo courtesy of Loree Redkin.

Special President’s Day sale!
Make your own statements with any of the jewelry designs in the Interweave Store online. We have chandelier earrings and bangles worthy of any ball. Just don’t use them to try to sneak into a State Dinner!

Thanks to Martha Regula, research director for the library of the National First Ladies Historic Site, who kindly allowed for the adaptation of some of their content for this blog–and who is a jewelry maker herself. We hope Martha introduces herself to everyone on Beading Daily and chats more about historic trendsetters.



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