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Red, White, and Blue on the Runway

The 1968 White House Fashion Show and the Politics of American Style

Clothing & Costume, Costume Society of America, Political Science & Politics, Recent Releases

DescriptionA behind-the-scenes look at the only fashion show held at the White House and the intersections of fashion and politics

On February 29, 1968, the White House hosted its first—and only—fashion show. At the time, the patriotic event was lauded by the press, and many predicted it would become an annual occasion, especially since fashion had grown to become the fourth largest industry in the United States, employing 1.4 million Americans, more than 80 percent of them women. But the social and political turmoil of that particular year—from the Vietnam War, the civil rights movement, and the assassinations of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Sen. Robert F. Kennedy—cast a shadow over the festivities.

Using eyewitness accounts as well as carefully preserved records, artifacts, and previously unpublished images, Red, White, and Blue on the Runway re-creates the once-in-a-lifetime event and explores the reasons why the first White House fashion show was destined to be the last. The politics of fashion touched everyone involved in this landmark occasion in American fashion history, from hostess Lady Bird Johnson and the Johnson daughters to the designers, including Bill Blass, Mollie Parnis, Geoffrey Beene, and Oscar de la Renta, as well as the models and guests. Those guests included the wives of governors and of President Johnson’s Cabinet, in addition to dozens of fashion designers and prominent journalists who reported on the event.

In our own turbulent political climate, Red, White, and Blue on the Runway takes us back to an equally tense time, providing a unique historical perspective on themes of fashion, politics, protest, and image-making that are immediately relevant today.

AuthorKimberly Chrisman-Campbell is a former National Endowment for the Humanities Public Scholar and former Research Scholar in Costume and Textiles at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. She is the author of Fashion Victims: Dress at the Court of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette, which won the Costume Society of America’s Millia Davenport Publication Award, as well as Worn on This Day: The Clothes That Made History and The Way We Wed: A Global History of Wedding Fashion. Her articles about fashion, art, and culture have been published in the Wall Street Journal, the Atlantic, Slate, the Washington Post, and Politico.