What 16 first ladies wore at their husbands' presidential inaugurations

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Kirsten Acuna,Talia Lakritz
·6 min read
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melania trump inauguration gown
Donald and Melania Trump. Kevin Dietsch - Pool/Getty Images
  • President-elect Joe Biden will be inaugurated on January 20, 2021.

  • First ladies have worn tailored suits and glamorous designer dresses to inaugural festivities.

  • Many first ladies' inaugural gowns are displayed at the National Museum of American History.

  • Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.

President Donald Trump is leaving office on January 20, and Joe Biden will be inaugurated as the next president.

While the inauguration is really about swearing in the next president, first ladies throughout history have stolen the show with their tailored suits and glamorous designer dresses.

In honor of the upcoming inauguration, we took a look back to see the stylish ensembles that first ladies wore on Inauguration Day.

March 4, 1925: Grace Coolidge was all smiles in a gray dress and top hat to match Calvin Coolidge's during his second inauguration.

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Grace Coolidge in 1925. AP Photo

Grace Coolidge was an immensely popular first lady whose friendliness balanced Calvin's reserved nature.

March 4, 1929: Lou Henry Hoover wore a velvet dress with a zig-zag pattern to Herbert Hoover's inauguration.

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Lou Henry Hoover in 1929. AP Photo

Lou Henry Hoover was known for her fashion and, in May 1929, became the first first lady to be in Vogue.

March 4, 1933: Press described Eleanor Roosevelt's inaugural gown as a shade called "Eleanor Blue."

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Eleanor Roosevelt in 1933. AP Photo

Her wrap and dress were made of "crystelle velvet," according to the New York Times. Press highlighted that Roosevelt's gowns were designed and made entirely in the US.

April 12, 1945: Bess Truman wore a formal look when Harry S. Truman was sworn into office shortly after President Franklin D. Roosevelt's death.

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Bess Truman in 1945. AP Photo

Truman wore a matching skirt suit set with a ruffled blouse.

January 20, 1949: Mrs. Truman was accompanied by the couple's daughter, Margaret, as well as Vice President Alben Barkley, President Truman, and Barkley's daughter Max Truitt during the president's second inauguration.

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Bess Truman in 1949. AP Photo/stf

Later, for the inaugural balls, Truman wore a gray satin dress with a silver feather pattern.

January 20, 1953: First lady Mamie Eisenhower wore a pale pink de soie gown which was embroidered with over 2,000 rhinestones.

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Mamie Eisenhower in 1953. AP Photo

Press had to wait until the week before the inauguration to receive details and photographs of the gown from Mrs. Eisenhower.

January 20, 1961: Jacqueline Kennedy was a vision at the inaugural balls wearing a sleeveless off-white silk chiffon gown.

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Mrs. and Mr. Kennedy at one of five inaugural balls. AP Photo

The first lady also had a matching cape to go with it.

January 20, 1965: Lady Bird Johnson wore a bright yellow gown ordered from Neiman Marcus.

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Lady Bird Johnson in 1965. White House Photo/LBJ Library

Johnson was the first first lady to hold the Bible for her spouse as he took the oath of office.

January 20, 1969: Pat Nixon wore a mimosa silk satin gown embroidered in gold and silver. You can't see it under her pink overcoat here.

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Pat Nixon in 1969. AP Photo via The National Museum of American History

Nixon also wore shoes with her name and the date of the inauguration engraved in the right instep.

August 8, 1974: President Gerald Ford took this photo with his family and wife, Betty Ford, after he was sworn into office as the 38th president.

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Betty Ford in 1974. AP Photo

Since Gerald Ford became president after Nixon resigned, Betty Ford didn't have a formal inauguration outfit. In the Smithsonian's collection of first ladies' inaugural fashion, she chose to display a green sequined chiffon gown embroidered with chrysanthemums that she wore to several state dinners.

January 20, 1977: Rosalynn Carter walked from the Capitol to the White House in a brilliant turquoise coat.

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Rosalynn Carter in 1977. AP Photo

Jimmy Carter called Rosalyn his "best friend and chief advisor."

That evening, Carter danced with her husband in a blue chiffon gown paired with a gold-embroidered sleeveless coat.

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Rosalynn Carter in 1977. Jimmy Carter Library

Designed by Mary Matise for Jimmae, it was the same gown that Carter had worn to her husband's inauguration as governor of Georgia.

January 20, 1981: Nancy Reagan wore a gorgeous one-shouldered lace gown over silk satin to the inaugural balls.

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Nancy Reagan in 1981. Ronald Reagan Presidential Library

The dress and gloves were designed by James Galanos. Her beaded shoes were from David Evins.

January 20, 1985: Reagan wore another James Galanos gown for her husband's second inauguration.

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Nancy Reagan in 1985. Ronald Reagan Presidential Library

The white chiffon gown was embroidered with glass beads that reportedly took more than 300 hours to apply by hand.

January 21, 1989: Barbara Bush wore a royal-blue gown with a velvet bodice to the inaugural balls.

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Barbara Bush in 1989. AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

The dress' designer Arnold Scaasi called Bush "the most glamorous grandmother in the United States."

January 20, 1993: Hillary Clinton wore a violet beaded lace sheath gown with a blue velvet silk overskirt to the inaugural balls.

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Hillary Clinton in 1993. REUTERS/Jim Bourg

The dress was designed by Sarah Phillips and made by New York theatrical costume designer Barbara Matera Ltd.

January 20, 2001: Laura Bush attended the Texas inaugural ball in a red gown by Texas designer Michael Faircloth.

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Laura Bush in 2001. REUTERSWin McNamee

The dress was made of Chantilly lace embroidered with crystals over silk georgette.

January 20, 2005: Laura Bush wore all white to her husband's second inauguration.

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Laura Bush in 2005. REUTERS/Files

Bush focused on promoting children's literacy and education in her time as first lady.

Later that evening, she wore a silver Oscar de la Renta gown to the second inaugural ball.

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Laura Bush in 2005. REUTERS/Jason Reed

Oscar de la Renta has dressed many first ladies over the years.

January 20, 2009: Michelle Obama shined next to President Obama in a sparkly yellow dress and overcoat at the 44th president's first inauguration.

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Michelle Obama in 2009. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

The outfit was designed by Cuban-born American designer Isabel Toledo. Obama paired the outfit with a wide diamante necklace.

January 21, 2009: She wore a custom-made white gown by Jason Wu at the Southern Regional Inaugural Ball.

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Michelle Obama in 2009. REUTERS/Jim Young

The gown was made of white silk chiffon and sparkled with organza flower embellishments containing Swarovski crystal centers.

January 21, 2013: Michelle Obama wore a collarless blue-checkered coat with J. Crew shoes to President Obama's second inauguration.

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Michelle Obama in 2013. REUTERS/Doug Mills/Pool

The pattern for the coat, designed by Thom Browne, was inspired by a men's tie.

January 22, 2013: She stunned at the inaugural ball wearing a red Jason Wu gown and Jimmy Choo shoes.

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Michelle Obama in 2013. REUTERS/Rick Wilking

Throughout her time in office, Obama made a point of enlisting up-and-coming designers to create her looks.

January 20, 2017: Melania Trump greeted the Obamas at the White House on Inauguration Day with the president-elect in a powder blue mock-turtleneck suit.

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The Obamas and the Trumps in 2017. Kevin Dietsch-Pool/Getty Images

The blue cashmere suit was designed by Ralph Lauren Collection.

She later wore an off-the-shoulder white gown with slit accompanied with a thin burgundy ribbon to the inaugural balls.

melania trump inauguration gown
Melania Trump in 2017. Kevin Dietsch - Pool/Getty Images

The dress was a "collaboration" between the First Lady and designer Hervé Pierre, according to the New York Times.

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