Most Fashionable Political Wives – Past and Present
Fashion is all around us, it’s at the tip of our fingertips with social media, blogs and fashion magazines, and in today’s society, everyone is a critic. We are constantly bombarded with images of celebrities, singers, reality television stars, artists and models on the pages of our favorite magazines, blogs and Instagram feeds. We remember their fashion choices – good and bad – and we judge them.
But today, more than ever, political wives are being critiqued, not only for their spouse’s political stance, but also for their fashion choices. Constantly in the public eye as they jet-set around the world, political spouses are expected to be intellectual, engaging, empathetic, strong, powerful, beautiful, and above all, be able to gain the trust of their people, all while fighting for causes that are close to their hearts.
Just like celebrities, political spouses are constantly on parade. They are criticized by the media and the public for their fashion choices and they are also judged as to whether or not they support U.S. talent. Case in point, Nancy Reagan who wore Galanos at her husband’s inaugural ball, Barbara Bush wore Scassi, and let’s not forget those first ladies who came out in support of home-state talent like Laura Bush who wore a local Texas designer, Michael Faircloth, and Hillary who wore Arkansas designer Sarah Phillips. Not since Jackie has fashion been so front and center, thanks to Michele Obama who wore Jason Wu to the inauguration and proceeded to elevate the profile of many young and up-and-coming designers. Heck, Michele even had the guts to make ‘off-the-rack’ J Crew cool and nearly crashed the internet when she decided to wear bangs!
Here is a look at the world’s most fashion-savvy wives of political leaders worldwide, both past and present.
Jacqueline Kennedy was the epitome of chic and is still considered America’s most iconic first lady. Known for her impeccable fashion sense and cosmopolitan lifestyle ‘Jackie’ captivated the American public both during and after her time in the White House. As one of the defining fashion trendsetters of the 1960s, women around the globe eagerly sought out the famous “Jackie look.” Department stores scrambled to produce affordable imitations of her sleek, classy dresses and hats. Nevertheless, her chic sensibility was often a point of contention. She was obsessed with pricey French couture and was criticized during the 1960 presidential campaign. Once she became first lady, the Kennedy camp worried her taste for foreign clothing could make the family seem out of touch. To solve the problem she was paired with American-based designer Oleg Cassini. Cassini went on to design more than 300 of her most iconic outfits, and later dubbed himself the First Lady’s “Secretary of Style.”
In 1968 she married Aristotle Onassis and catapulted to fashion icon status worldwide wearing her signature oversized sunglasses, Gucci bags and printed headscarves.
Jacqueline passed away on May 19, 1994 in her Manhattan apartment in New York City.
Diana, Princess of Wales, was the first wife of Charles, Prince of Wales, who is the eldest child and heir apparent of Queen Elizabeth II. The royal was famously down-to-earth and brought a breath of fresh air to the House of Windsor. Diana married Prince Charles at St. Paul’s Cathedral in the summer of 1981. All eyes were on Diana, approximately 17 million viewers from around the world tuned in to watch the ceremony. Princess Diana was in the public eye for the whole of her life—everything from her fashion choices to her haircuts became an international fad. Two decades after her tragic death, in the summer of 1997, people are still enamored with the Princess of Wales.
‘Princess Di’ ascended to the pantheon of the best-dressed women in history and favored British-based fashion by Bruce Oldfield, Catherine Walker and Elizabeth Emanuel, who designed her famous wedding dress. She attended Gianni Versace’s funeral in a Versace and just a few short weeks later, the Princess met a tragic fate of her own. She will always be remembered not only as a fashion icon, but as a great humanitarian, often raising awareness for AIDS and the poverty in Africa.
Grace Patricia Kelly was a successful and beloved American actress who became Princess of Monaco after marrying Prince Rainier III, in April 1956. Their fairy-tale wedding took place in Monaco and it is estimated that the royal event was watched by over 30 million viewers on live television. The event was described by biographer Robert Lacey as “the first modern event to generate media overkill.” Grace’s wedding gown, which took six weeks and three dozen seamstresses to complete, was created by MGM’s Academy Award–winning designer, Helen Rose.
While pregnant with her daughter Caroline in 1956, Grace was frequently photographed clutching a leather hand-bag manufactured by Hermès. The now famous ‘Kelly Bag’ was often used by Grace as a shield to hide her baby bump from the paparazzi. Kelly was inaugurated into the International Best Dressed List Hall of Fame in 1960, giving her fashion icon.
On September 13, 1982, Kelly was driving back to Monaco from her country home in Roc Agel when she had a stroke. As a result, she lost control of her car and drove off the steep, winding road and down mountainside with her daughter, Stéphanie. At the hospital doctors attempted to resuscitate Kelly but because of the extent of not only her brain injury but injuries to her thorax and a femur fracture, they were unable to save her life.
After her death, Kelly’s legacy as a fashion icon lived on. Modern designers, such as Tommy Hilfiger and Zac Posen, have cited her as a fashion inspiration. She was known for introducing the “fresh faced” look, one that involved bright skin and natural beauty with little makeup. She is remembered for her “college-girl” everyday fashion, defined by her pulled-together yet simple look.
Michelle LaVaughn Robinson Obama is a highly educated, incredibly smart, and by many accounts as warm and gracious as she appears. Michelle Obama is an American lawyer and writer who was First Lady of the United States from 2009 to 2017. She is married to the 44th President of the United States, Barack Obama, and was the first African-American First Lady. Graduated from Harvard Law School, she was her husband’s mentor, and she seems to have a marriage based on equality and love. Michele works tirelessly for her causes, advocating for kid’s health and inspiring young women.
Obama has been compared to Jacqueline Kennedy due to her sense of style and has quickly become a fashion icon and champion of young American-based designers. Her style has been described as “fashion populist.” She had the bravado to mixed high-end designer clothes with less expensive pieces from J.Crew and Target. She became a fashion trendsetter, in particular favoring sleeveless dresses, including her first-term official portrait in a dress by Michael Kors, and her ball gowns designed by Jason Wu for both inaugurals.
Queen Rania of Jordan
Rania Al-Abdullah is the queen of Jordan. Since marrying the now King of Jordan, Abdullah bin Hussein, she has become known for her advocacy work related to education, health, community empowerment, youth, cross-cultural dialogue, and micro-finance. She is one of the most inspiring royals in the Arab region. Throughout her reign as queen (1999 to present), she has taken a stand for gender equality, education, and entrepreneurship to name a few.
Queen Rania is known not only for her humanitarian efforts in the Middle East, but also for her impeccable fashion sense through the years. She is just as comfortable and effortless in both Western attire as well as some pieces that echo more regional influences; Queen Rania can wear an elaborate bright sapphire-blue gown or bold red dress as easily as a simple and conservative black dress.
Her style seems to always be the center of attention; always on point and done right. There’s no doubt that Queen Rania of Jordan is one of the most stylish royals in the world.
The former supermodel caught the world’s attention as the wife of the President of France, Nicolas Sarkozy in 2008 and has been compared to Jackie O.
Carla Bruni-Sarkozy is an Italian-French singer-songwriter and former model. In 2008, She married Nicolas Sarkozy, the former French president and Co-Prince of Andorra. She held her role as First Lady of France from February 2008 to May 2012.
Carla Bruni-Sarkozy epitomizes French style, its timelessness and classic. It may evolve over the decades but never strays too far from its hallmarks. As a supermodel, singer, and France’s former First Lady, Carla Bruni-Sarkozy’s perspective on fashion is one of a kind. She tailors her fashion choices by occasion, when attending state dinners or political functions its Dior suits with kitten heels, but on tour, she opts for jeans and boho blouses. She’s become a front row fixture during Paris Fashion Week, nailing it perfectly, relying on a fail-safe combination of skintight black trousers, stilettos, and elegant jackets from the designers whose collections she’s favored.
Brigitte Marie-Claude Macron
Scandalous even for the French, Brigitte Marie-Claude Macron is the wife and former high school teacher of Emmanuel Macron, the current President of the French Republic. At 64, she is 25 years his senior and epitomizes a new spin of French style which is at once soignée and glamorous.
Brigitte Marie-Claude Macron appears to look more like a former model than a former teacher and dresses accordingly. Images of the couple together during their recent years reveal her chic sense of style, opting for mini-length dresses, skinny jeans and luxe accessories.
Her elevated French style does not conform to the low maintenance, relaxed vibe of many Parisian “It girls” but rather Brigitte Marie-Claude Macron ops for more figure-flattering looks – looking sensual, sexy and ageless. She has panache and a cool attitude pairing her designer tailored blazers with skinny jeans and kitten heels. She is definitely a fashion icon in the making.
She’s a modern-day princess. Catherine Middleton is the young Duchess of Cambridge and wife of Prince William, Duke of Cambridge. Kate Middleton emulates her mother-in-law’s style (Princess Diana) as well as her passion for charity work and love of her children.
Princess Kate has quickly become a fashion icon and has been placed on many “best dressed” lists. Her Alexander McQueen wedding gown catapulted her fashion status on the world stage. Princess Kate can effortlessly transition from wearing a glamourous gown to running around in skinny jeans and sharp blazers – she nails the casual look every time.
In June 2016, she participated in her first magazine photo-shoot for Vogue’s centenary issue; she appeared on the cover of the magazine. While she wears many new designers, she has also worn dresses by Catherine Walker, who designed many of Princess Diana’s favorite evening gowns and day suits. She is also known for recycling her looks – making her a modest yet modern royal.
Sophie Grégoire Trudeau
Sophie Grégoire Trudeau is a former television host with a passion for charity work, and is vocal about woman’s issues. She married Justine Trudeau in Montreal 2005 – a decade before he became Canada’s Prime Minister. The young couple has quickly become a stylish set in the political arena.
More often than not, one does not think of Canada as a fashionable country, often Canadian designers struggle to make their voices heard, but Sophie Grégoire Trudeau is changing the world’s perception on Canadian fashion. She has made it her mission to expose the fashion talent in her country. While she has yet to earn the status of international style icon like Kate Middleton, Canada’s “first lady” has raised awareness at home for the fashion industry.
Fashion isn’t new territory for Sophie Grégoire Trudeau, She first started honing her fashion chops as a personal shopper at Holt Renfrew, and even helped design her own wedding gown. Today, she has made a point of wearing the designs of local brands, including Beaufille, Lucian Matis and Smythe at every opportunity.
Eva Perón – Evita
María Eva Duarte de Perón was an aspiring actress before becoming the wife of Argentine President Juan Perón and First Lady of Argentina from 1946 until her death in 1952. She is usually referred to as Eva Perón or ‘Evita.’
Eva Perón broke gender rules in Argentina. As First Lady, she unofficially took over the Ministries of Health and Labor; she devoted a huge amount of time to meeting with poor Argentinians, visited hospitals and orphanages, and founded the Female Perónist Party, a political party comprised of female voters.
In 1947, Eva Perón traveled to Spain, Italy, France, and Switzerland. Dubbed the “Rainbow Tour,” Perón’s goodwill trip included meetings with Francisco Franco, Pope Pius XII, and Charles de Gaulle. Dressed impeccably in designer clothes, she gave money to poor children in Spain, visited the Palace of Versailles, and encountered protesters in Switzerland who threw stones and tomatoes at her. Some Europeans distrusted aspects of Juan Perón’s fascist rule and ties to Nazi war criminals, while others disapproved of what they viewed as her ostentatious “famewhoring.”
Eva Perón died of cervical cancer at the age of 33, on Saturday, July 26, 1952.
In July 2002, to commemorate 50 years since her death, Museo Evita (The Evita Museum) opened in Palermo, Buenos Aires. The museum features Eva Perón’s portraits and designer clothing—she famously wore Dior dresses, tailored suits, and eye-catching jewelry, especially after her return from Europe.
All eyes are now on Melania Trump. For a designer, her model figure is the perfect canvas. She wore Ralph Lauren to her husband’s inauguration (a robin’s egg blue ensemble which was a very definite nod to Jackie) but some designers such as Tom Ford, Marc Jacobs, Zac Posen, Christian Siriano and Sophie Theallet have declared that they will not dress her. Many feel that dressing her could generate enough negative publicity to seriously harm their brand as was the case for Lauren, when #BoycottRalphLauren trended across social media. Since the inauguration in January, Melania Trump has worn more foreign fashion brands for public appearances and events than American. During his inaugural address in January, President Donald Trump declared, “We will follow two simple rules: buy American and hire American.” Is Melania seeking revenge against the American design community by not wearing American or is she caught up in a political cross-fire? Let’s hear your thoughts?
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