February 11, 2009
Living in Washington has me a bit jaded, I suppose. Even though my husband goes to work every day to a place of great prestige and power, which some have only seen on television, we often do the requisite complaining about his commute and hours. For shame!!!
Why this mea culpa? I was called to account and to a renewed respect for this place called the White House this week, not through any Christmas party visit, after-hours WW tour or presidential press conference, but through C-Span, which has created the most comprehensive and beautiful documentary of “the People’s House.” From the descriptors of Washington’s (who never inhabited the House) plans to pictures of Eleanor Roosevelt’s (first only female reporters allowed) press conference, to the first ever video of the 3rd Floor Coolidge Solarium and a peak into Laura Bush’s yellow oval room, it is a fascinating and top-notch exploration.
It seems every president, including our current one, wants to be like Abe. The references to President Abraham Lincoln were ummatched in this documentary, punctuated by the recent refurbishing of the Lincoln Bedroom to match the style of the room when he inhabited the White House. How amazing and fitting now, as tomorrow we mark the 200th anniversary of his birth.
The C-Span documentary crew had few restrictions placed on their exploration; only a few Mansion spots were off limits apparently — the swimming pool and the Presidential Master bath (come on!) but other than that, most of the House was fair game, even the Chocolate “factory”.
For the C-Span show, you can see the trailer here, but we bought the DVD for $10 and I plan to buy many more to give as gifts. Now, if you want a close up tour from 2008 Christmastime, “A Red, White and Blue Christmas”, go over to Big Red Kitchen and see Rob and Robin touring the public rooms of the House.
You can always book the public tours, but when the wicked-cool West Wing tours open up again with the new Administration, we just might know some insiders….
January 15, 2009
As an impressionable 21 year old, way back in early 1992, I had my very first college PR internship in DC at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. As luck would have it, I arrived at the perfect time — the overhaul of the First Lady Exhibition. The most popular exhibition at the museum had the gowns, dresses, even jewelry of the nation’s First Ladies (not all wives, mind you) — I loved to stop and just admire it all — from Nancy Reagan’s red suit to Jackie O’s little pillbox hats. I even remember meeting then-First Lady Barbara Bush, ever gracious and funny. She joined us to cut the ribbon on this exhibition, which took a first step in looking beyond just the gowns to also showcase the important roles that each First Lady played in their leading man’s presidency and for the nation.
So, here we are at the dawn of a new presidency. A new opportunity for another very special woman to put her mark on the role of First Lady and present an important image not only to American daughters but to the world. What is one of the first ways she will do that — by choosing an inaugural gown. Maybe it sounds silly to speak in such symbolism, but I’ve taken a few cues from Robyn Givhan and heck, I’ve watched “The Devil Wears Prada” so i know the message that fashion sends!
So, I for one, have been watching with anticipation to see when we’ll get introduced (my money is on this Sunday the 18th) to the designer of and the gown itself that our incoming First Lady, Michelle Obama, will be wearing for the evening inauguration festivities here in Washington.
There has been so much written already about her style (or lack thereof, according to some). How she’s still figuring it out… how Mr. de la Renta, who’s enjoyed such promenence not only with Laura Bush, but with Cindy McCain, will likely not be the sylist of choice. As classic, stunning, and flawless are de la Renta’s creations, Michelle (we’re on a first name basis!) is more likely to take chances, try a variety of young up and coming designers — Maria Pinto of Chicago or even stick again with Narciso Rodriguez, who designed the election nightdress she wore.
Robyn Givhan, who will most likely be the one who gets the big news first, is already driving the discussion around what “The Dress” could look like. In Sunday’s edition of the Style section, Givhan announced the winners and entrants in the “Formalwear Design Contest” to design Michelle Obama’s gown. The winner…..a sleek deep green gown, symbolizing what else, “Hope, Optimism.”
By a budding fashion designer, Katie Ermelio, this dress is gorgeous, even if this is not what we see next week…
For the record, I have actually liked how Michelle Obama has taken chances with her fashion choices. Maybe she hasn’t always gotten it right, but she will bring some new names, styles and statements to the White House. I can’t wait to watch…..