D.C.'s best dressed
From party crashers to a royal John Travolta fan girl, a look back at the most fabulous– and notorious – fashion moments in the American capital
No invitation is more coveted than being asked to attend a state dinner at the White House. Barring a conflicting wedding, death in the family, illness or pre-existing travel plans, etiquette dictates that you always RSVP in the affirmative – and who would want to miss the most talked-about meal in the Western world anyway? The opportunity to be part of history comes with the expectation to dress way up. Here, a roundup of highlights
1963: Jacqueline Kennedy
This most stylish first lady is credited with "de-starching" the state dinner tradition thanks to guest lists filled with socialites and intellectual types like Tennessee Williams and Mark Rothko. To achieve her now iconic look, Kennedy appointed Oleg Cassini as her official couturier, and he often modelled his designs (like this beaded evening dress) after pieces by Hubert de Givenchy.
1976: Queen Elizabeth
Courtesy of Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library
The Queen paired a canary-yellow gown and white evening gloves with an abundance of blingy gemstones for this dinner, including her Queen Alexandra's Kokoshnik tiara, a veritable wall of diamonds that glittered on the dance floor as the Queen and President Ford danced to The Lady is a Tramp.
1981: Nancy Reagan
First lady Nancy Reagan became known for two fashion movements: Reagan red, her signature colour, and supporting American designers (whether or not she paid for their pieces was a matter of great contention). To host her first state dinner honouring British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, Reagan chose a 14-year-old dress by James Galanos.
1985: Lady Diana and John Travolta
AP Photo/Ronald Reagan Library
Rumour has it that Lady Diana told Nancy Reagan that her one wish on her visit to the United States was to dance with John Travolta, which she did for more than 20 minutes in this blue velvet gown and diamond-and-sapphire choker. In 2013, the Victor Edelstein stunner sold at auction for a record breaking $362,424 (U.S.).
1997: Hillary Clinton
JON LEVY/AFP/Getty Images
The presidential hopeful regularly sported Oscar de la Renta to official functions, including the gold lace and green taffeta number she wore to accept a Grammy Award before arriving at a state dinner. After the designer's passing in 2014, the Clinton family released a statement praising his remarkable eye and generous heart.
2009: Tareq and Michaele Salahi
MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images
When the two Real Housewives of D.C. stars crashed a dinner honouring the Indian Prime Minister, it offended not only the Secret Service but also style pundits. Worn with $30,000 worth of borrowed David Yurman jewellery, Salahi's flashy red sari was later bought at a charity auction by the owner of the salon where she and her husband had prepped for the dinner.
2011: Michelle Obama
Win McNamee/Getty Images
The outrage FLOTUS elicited when she wore a voluminous red Alexander McQueen dress by British designer Sarah Burton to a state dinner nearly reached Marie Antoinette proportions. In an official statement from the Council of Fashion Designers of America, Diane von Furstenberg, its president, said she was "disappointed" that an American designer was not represented. Ouch.