Laura Bush at the First Ladies exhibit. Elizabeth Lavin


The Bush Center’s First Ladies Exhibit Proves a Jacket Is Not Just a Jacket

Take note, Melania.

In March, I had the pleasure of meeting former first lady Laura Bush at the George W. Bush Presidential Center, where she gave me a tour of the exhibit First Ladies: Style of Influence, running through October 1.

She showed me the Bill Blass gown she wore to a state dinner. She showed me a reproduction of the dress Dolley Madison had made from the White House’s velvet drapes, which Madison saved before the British set fire to the capital. She showed me camo-trimmed aprons that military wives gave Michelle Obama. And she showed me the modest pantsuit she wore to visit with women in Afghanistan in 2008. The outfit included a scarf tied around the neck, so she could pull it up and cover her hair if she felt it was necessary.

Walking around the exhibit, I found that for first ladies—who, by joining their husbands in the White House, accepted the roles of hostess, diplomat, activist, and advocate—a dress is never just a dress, a gift is never just a gift, and something as small as a scarf can make all the difference when it comes to diplomacy and respect. With the eyes of the world on first ladies, what they wear is never meaningless.

It’s an exhibit the current first lady could learn a thing or two from.


  • Happy Bennett

    Your article is OK until the last sentence. It seems irrelevant to me if the impeccably dressed and well mannered Mrs. Trump uses a $39 raincoat to protect herself from the wet weather while on a humanitarian journey to South Texas. Where was Mrs. Bush BTW? Seems to me the appropriate response would be “Thank you Mrs. Trump”.

    • Wendy Flatt

      It was disrespectful and in incredibly poor taste for her to wear that jacket. Just like you wouldn’t wear a Nike “Just Do It” t-shirt to a rape prevention rally, neither should she have worn a jacket that says “I don’t care” to a prison camp for children. So incredibly tone deaf.

      • Ed Huff

        Not at all. The lady had just recovered from major surgery and made not one but two trips to observe border happenings. You just don’t like her, and that makes your comment irrelevant.