Every first lady makes an impression, whether she means to or not. Some arrive at the White House already well versed in the sartorial requirements of the job -- what Lady Bird Johnson referred to as the "harness of hairdo and gloves" -- and embrace the style-setting authority of the role as Jacqueline Kennedy did in 1961. Others resent the expectation, failing to grasp why what makes them feel comfortable should be the public's business.
This talk looks at how first ladies -- from Dolley Madison to Jacqueline Kennedy to Michelle Obama -- have affected American style and changed the way women in this country dress for work, for the public spotlight, and for themselves.
Kate Betts is a contributing editor at TIME magazine where she has written about the worlds of style and design since 2003. Betts is also a columnist at The Daily Beast. Until this year she was also the editor of TIME Style & Design, a special issue published six times a year in the United States, Europe and Asia.
Previously, Betts was the editor in chief of Harper's Bazaar from June 1999 to June 2001, where she completely redesigned the 134-year-old fashion title. She moved to Bazaar from Vogue, where she was the fashion news director from 1991 to 1999. At Vogue, Betts was responsible for developing and producing all fashion features, including runway reports, designer profiles and popular culture stories. She was editor of many of the magazine's most popular sections, including "Vogue's View" and "Vogue's Index," a special shopping section that she created in 1995.
Author Kate Betts reviews the style of first lady Michelle Obama in comparison to previous first ladies. Betts examines the formal dress code in Washington and how Michelle Obama's more casual attire and attitude represent a break from the traditional uniform of women in the White House.