15 Most Fashionable First Ladies Throughout History

Over the years, many First Ladies of the United States have set fashion trends and gained admirers worldwide. Their style ranged from elegant to sophisticated from the earliest presidential days to the modern era.

Many First Ladies were renowned for their timeless, fashion-forward attire. The most fashionable First Ladies stand the test of time and continue to inspire women with their poise and grace, emphasized by their clothing choices.

1. Jacqueline Kennedy

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Jacqueline Kennedy is by far the most fashionable First Lady. No other woman in her position looked more stylish, set more trends, or inspired more women. Her signature looks included Chanel suits, pillbox hats, capri pants, oversized sunglasses, and a triple-strand pearl necklace.

Always in fashion, Jackie Kennedy radiated sophistication and beauty, emphasized by her effortlessly stylish ensembles. She became a fashion icon in her time and remains one to this day. She even inspired Mattel to create a Jacqueline Kennedy Barbie doll.

2. Mamie Eisenhower

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Mamie Eisenhower would fit well into the world of Audrey Hepburn’s film Funny Face, where they all “think pink.” Indeed, pink became her signature color after she wore a gown at Dwight Eisenhower’s inauguration ball in a color soon called “Mamie Pink.”

According to The New York Times, she never wanted to wear “old lady clothes.” Instead, she donned brightly colored and patterned dresses that dominated 1950s fashion. She also frequently wore hats, gloves, and costume jewelry to accessorize her outfits.

3. Michelle Obama

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Michelle Obama is the most stylish First Lady of the 21st century. She charmed and impressed countless people with her bold, flattering fashion choices.

Her fashion staples included one-shoulder gowns, vibrant colors and prints, as well as her more casual looks. Some of her more admirable fashionable moments came when she balanced wearing American up-and-coming designers like Jason Wu along with more affordable pieces from J. Crew.

4. Mary Todd Lincoln

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With her extravagant, expensive gowns, the wife of beloved President Abraham Lincoln inspired divided reactions to her style. Some admired it, while others criticized her opulent apparel, especially during a time of war.

Some of the criticism was warranted. Lincoln spent a great deal of money on her dresses, leading to large debts. She favored floral, low-cut gowns which were inspired by French designs.

5. Melania Trump

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The thing about being First Lady is that they can shine in their style no matter the public opinion of the President. It was a divisive time in the country, but one constant remained: Melania Trump’s stylish attire.

The former fashion model knows how to wear clothes well and often donned monochromatic body con dresses, tailored suits, and classic trench coats. One trench coat reading, “I really don’t care, do u?” courted a great deal of controversy when she wore it to visit a children’s detention center.

6. Nancy Reagan

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As an actress, Nancy Reagan never avoided the glamorous Hollywood style. As First Lady, she maintained her fashionable clothing. Although older, Reagan always looked elegant.

Her signature color was red, and ball gowns became a staple. She also loved tailored suits with intricate details and padded shoulders — a style very much on trend in the 1980s. She wore high-end, well-known designers like Carolina Herrera and always looked lovely.

7. Dolley Madison

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Looking back at the earliest Presidents, the fourth First Lady, Dolley Madison, was probably the first genuinely stylish one. Her grace emanated from her warm and kind demeanor, which everyone admired.

Her style evolved from conservative pieces to ornate, bright fabrics and the most fashionable accessories from France. Her beautiful attire was only matched by her hospitable nature, making her one of the earliest fashion icons in the United States.

8. Lady Bird Johnson

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On the heels of Jackie Kennedy, Lady Bird Johnson made her impressive mark on the fashion world. Although she wore more modest attire, she stood out with her contrasting formal and casual styles.

She frequently wore bright colors such as yellow and lime green, white gloves, fur, and a statement pair of shoes. On the more down-to-earth end, Johnson loved to wear pants, boots, and cowboy hats while putting around on the Johnson ranch.

9. Dr. Jill Biden

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Observers always admired Dr. Jill Biden’s style, but even more people took notice once she became First Lady. She’s known for wearing floral dresses and ombré gowns from Oscar de la Renta and many American designers.

Biden also makes a name for herself for her commitment to sustainability and longevity in fashion. She’s worn outfits multiple times, making her fashion choices refreshing and more relatable to the everyday person.

10. Grace Coolidge

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Though not as much of a trendsetter as First Ladies Jackie Kennedy and Michelle Obama, Grace Coolidge proved herself to be a style icon in the 1920s. According to Town and Country, she fully embraced the Flapper style of the time, which included loose-fitting dresses with drop waists and shorter skirts than previous eras.

Her appreciation for popular fashion and penchant for other activities “of the people,” such as sports, hiking, and going to the movies, endeared her to the American public. She inspired many with her down-to-earth fashion.

11. Frances Cleveland

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During her husband Grover Cleveland’s two presidential terms, Frances Cleveland’s style sparked divided opinions. The young First Lady loved décolleté gowns more than anything else, inspiring other young women to dress similarly.

Cleveland also adored the Parisian fashion house Maison Worth. She wore Worth gowns or copies of its style almost exclusively.

12. Patricia Nixon

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Pat Nixon became known for her stylish fashion choices, which often made political statements, subtle or otherwise. According to Town and Country, Nixon championed the women’s equality movement by donning pantsuits instead of dresses.

Moreover, Nixon enjoyed subverting expectations without sacrificing classic style. Glittering gowns or crop jackets were staples of her wardrobe, with red and yellow being her signature colors.

13. Betty Ford

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Betty Ford kept up with the trends of the 1970s while retaining much of the chic 1960s mod style. She often wore silk scarves, cat-eye sunglasses, plaids, slit skirts, and blazers.

According to FirstLadies.org, Betty Ford worked in the fashion industry herself. She employed her expertise with everyday and formal apparel, gaining many admirers.

14. Hillary Clinton

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No one championed the stylish pantsuit like Hillary Clinton. They formed her signature style, and she wore them in soft colors and neutrals. Clinton also made headbands fashionable again in the 90s. According to Town and Country, these became known as the “Hillary Headband.”

Clinton also loved bold colors such as purple and ornate material like lace and velvet for her formal wear.

15. Florence Harding

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Florence Harding’s tenure as First Lady was only three years, but she made a positive impact, particularly with her sense of style and open nature. According to The White House Historical Association, Harding reopened the White House grounds for the first time since World War I and hosted functions for the public. It was at these gatherings that she impressed visitors with her style.

Although a little older, she kept up with the times, wearing beaded dresses, fur coats, elegant hats, and silk. She epitomized the “Roaring Twenties” fashion trends.

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