Our first real glimpse of First Lady style and grace was marketed by Jackie Kennedy and the Kennedy machine. Visual media was becoming an important selling technique and the Kennedys used it to maximum effect. Jack likely won the 1960 election because, while he “lost” the presidential debate on policy and substance, he looked and acted vital and young — at least on TV. On radio, he was tentative and nervous. For Jackie, being the First Lady was an easy sell. Jackie was young and attractive. Coming from wealth and marrying into immense wealth didn’t hurt either.
60 years ago, Jackie gave a tour of the White House in a cherry red Christian Dior suit that was picked with a purpose. It was Valentine’s Day. The TV special was in black & white but she knew that her image in that dress would be republished, in print, in full color. She and the dress looked elegant. And, tragically, everyone knows or at least would recognize what Jackie was wearing when President Kennedy was assassinated. One needn’t drift into partisan politics to appreciate that Jackie was what one would picture as a “First Lady.”
Hillary Clinton and Michelle Obama had other ambitions, but like them or not, they listened to stylists. They wore what looked best for them. Hillary was keenly aware of her limitations and she covered her liabilities, mostly in pantsuits. Michelle sometimes drifted into styles that were less than flattering, but not often.
When Trump won, his wife, a former model, took her role of First Lady seriously and dressed for the part. She, like Jackie Kennedy, married into immense wealth and understood that presentation was important. Melania always looked elegant and appropriately dressed. At 49, and still a model of beauty, Melania could have worn a sack and looked lovely. She didn’t, of course. She always dressed for the occasion.
Although Melania was arguably the most attractive First Lady to ever occupy the position, she was subjected to four-plus years of vile ridicule and objectively absurd remarks belittling her looks, her accent, and her style. Melania would dress in nothing but designer outfits but she never graced the cover of a single style or glamour magazine. In contrast, Michelle Obama seemed to be on a cover-a-week. She was seen on more covers than professional models. Vogue, Time, Redbook, InStyle, Glamour, Essence, and People are but a few cover shots. Michelle Obama appeared on dozens of covers multiple times.
Melania appeared on zero covers. Why? Wrong politics.
Before the 2020 election, Jill Biden seemed to take the advice of stylists. She “dressed” for the part. She wore dresses and suits that were flattering for an almost 70-year-old grandmother. After the election and inauguration, she seems to have hired Kamala’s speechwriters as her First Lady stylists. There are styles that just are not right for a 71-year-old First Lady. Like fishnet stockings and something that looked like a miniskirt with a slip showing. A Gen-Z bar hopping look doesn’t translate well for Dr. Jill.
Vogue thought otherwise. It was a totes lovely look for Grandma Biden, Vogue snapped:
“First lady Jill Biden recently wore a pair of playfully patterned, fishnet-adjacent tights while deplaning Air Force One in Washington, D.C. This is not a scandal—but because the Biden White House does not tend to produce personal scandal, some conservative talking heads are trying to turn it into one”
Ok, Vogue. Jill looked fetching in fishnet. And Biden scandals? Nothing burgers. No personal scandals for them. Seriously that’s what Vogue wrote. Vogue went on to criticize Melania because goodness, one cannot write anything touching politics without making it about a Trump. Fishnets to a Trump is quite the leap.
Dr. Jill has been on a fashion roll lately. The dress she wore while she went shopping (in the middle of what seems be a constant First Family vacation) was cringe-worthy. My reaction? “Woof, what is that mess?” I asked my costume-designing wife for an assessment. I didn’t want to be too harsh. That might be all the rage for 71-year-old grandmas.
Jill Biden goes for shopping in Kiawah Island shops with Hunter’s wife. pic.twitter.com/BbZH1bFCC6
— Real Mac Report (@RealMacReport) August 14, 2022
She said it was age-inappropriate. How inappropriate? Grandma shouldn’t be wearing smock-top dresses and they are designed to be worn off-the-shoulder, and down, not “let’s catch some rainwater” over the shoulders. I asked what age would it be appropriate. “12” was the answer. To be fair, Jill was shopping with Hunter’s wife. Maybe Hunter asked her to wear it.
Dr. Jill was recently diagnosed with COVID. She’ll be out of the public eye for a while. Rest assured, Jill’s covered on drugs and dresses. She’s double vaxxed, double boosted and she’s covered for her sickbed jammies. She has an outfit that resembles an ER gown.
What a day — what a week!
Proud is an understatement. 💕 pic.twitter.com/MuDyEAS1pN
— Jill Biden (@FLOTUS) August 12, 2022
I can guarantee that once Jill recovers from COVID she’ll be on a magazine cover. Or multiple covers. Likely Vogue. The midterms are coming up. I’m just hoping it’s not in black fishnet and a miniskirt or her hospital gown.