Joe Biden’s inauguration on Wednesday looked very different from any in American history due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic (and the
noted lack of the man he’s replacing in the audience), but Dr. Jill Biden continued on one American tradition by setting the tone for what to expect from her fashion statements as First Lady. Over the years, the dress chosen by the incoming presidential spouse to the swearing-in ceremony and official balls that follow has varied, from demure looks that are meant to blend in to dramatic and symbolic dresses that declare a new administration’s beginning, like Michelle Obama’s elegant Isabel Toledo suit from her husband’s first inaugural. Here, a look back at all of the tailored jackets, sequined gowns and everything in between of inaugurations throughout history.
For her husband’s second inauguration, Mamie Eisenhower wore a citron lace ballgown – with a matching slip and petticoat – designed by Nettie Rosenstein.
First Lady Mamie Eisenhower, 1957
Jackie Kennedy took on her role as First Lady and burgeoning style icon wearing a sleeveless silk chiffon dress, which she helped to design alongside Ethel Frankau of Bergdorf Goodman.
Patricia Nixon took in her husband’s swearing-in wearing a bright pink peacoat, paired with a mink stole and matching hat.
Rosalynn Carter arrived to the capital hand-in-hand with her husband, wearing a swingy teal peacoat and knee-high boots.
Nancy Regan looked to her favorite color – red – for her 1981 ensemble.
Nancy Reagan made her penchant for all things glamorous known at the 1981 Inaugural Ball, donning a one-shouldered lace gown by John Galanos.
At her husband’s 1985 swearing in, Nancy Reagan donned a blue suit and matching hat – with heaps of gold jewelry for good measure.
Hillary Clinton made a major statement in a royal purple gown by little-known designer Sarah Phillips in 1993.
For Bill Clinton’s second swearing in, Hillary went pink, in a pastel-hued wool coat.
Oscar de la Renta was Hillary Clinton’s designer of choice for her second inaugural ball, where she a wore a glimmering, long-sleeved gold gown.
Laura Bush opted for a designer from her home state of Texas, wearing a beaded Michael Faircloth gown.
For her husband’s 2005 swearing in, Laura Bush went winter white in a pristine Oscar de la Renta suit.
The designer also dressed Bush for that year’s inaugural ball, crafting an ice blue and silver embroidered tulle V-neck dress.
Michelle Obama stepped outside the traditional red, white and blue color palette in 2009, wearing a sunny yellow suit by Isabel Toledo.
Obama selected young designer Jason Wu’s cream-colored, one shoulder gown for the couple’s first inauguration, marking her first step as a major fashion influencer.
Obama arrived to the 2013 inaugural parade wearing a blue checked coat by Thom Browne, cinched with a metallic belt.
Once again, Jason Wu dressed Obama for the Inaugural Ball in 2013 with a show-stopping red velvet and chiffon gown.
Melania Trump arrived at the White House for her husband’s swearing in wearing a powder blue Ralph Lauren suit that recalled Jackie Kennedy’s signature style.
Dr. Jill Biden wore a custom woolen tweed coat and dress, along with a matching silk face mask, by Markarian’s Alexandra O’Neill.
Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images