AS ABC's Peter Jennings noted yesterday, First Lady...

salmagundi

January 21, 1993

AS ABC's Peter Jennings noted yesterday, First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton is not a woman who has a passion for clothes. After all, the day before her wedding she walked into a store and bought a dress off the rack. But neither is she averse to fashion, and she is certainly not tone deaf to advice.

Rosalynn Carter learned the hard way that First Ladies earn no points for practicality when she was criticized for wearing the same gown to her husband's presidential inaugural balls that she had worn when he took office as governor of Georgia. As our friend the fashion cop noted, not only was her gown "frumpy," but wearing an old gown, however sentimental the attachment, showed in her view a lack of sensitivity to the momentous nature of the occasion. "After all," she told us, "what could be a more special occasion than watching your husband become president?"

More to the point, First Ladies, even lawyer-First Ladies like Hillary Clinton take on a symbolic importance that translates into dollars and cents. Millions of Americans earn their living in the domestic garment industry, and a First Lady's interest in fashion in general or in a particular designer is worth a lot of money. So is her interest in things like hats or scarves.

As the fashion cop sees it, Hillary Clinton's inaugural week wardrobe suggests that the First Lady is still torn between what she has been, a lawyer-wife-mother, and what she became yesterday, a symbol for the nation, a figure for the history books. She's still feeling her way, in fashion.

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