Wednesday, February 18, 2009

In a Mamie Mood

Of course, I'm all about our new first lady, and totally into her contemporary, fashion-forward vibe. That doesn't mean, though, that I've lost any affection for the former White House mistress who was perhaps the Divine Michelle's polar opposite:

Isn't she glorious? Mamie, Mamie, Mamie, serene in her be-capelet-ed coat and double row of pearls.

She may not have been a Vogue covergirl, but on her watch, entertaining at the White House did have a kind of splendour:

It's hard to believe this is only fifty-odd years ago. It might as well be a study for a Winterhalter group portrait.

While this lightly fraught moment carries with it more than a whiff of Velazquez, no?

The Red Room looked pretty good, but the Blue Room shows why Jackie had her work cut out for her. I like this blurry shot, though, which reminds me of Deborah Turbeville's Versailles photos.

Although her Ghosts were, I suppose, unlikely to accessorize their crinolines with a nice mink stole.

Michelle is hot stuff all right - but could she carry off that hat? The wallpaper is yet another Kennedy challenge; you can almost see her face when first she saw it. I think it must have been Eleanor's idea. Or maybe Grace Coolidge.

To end this little hommage, here's another in my occasional shameless namedroppings: when I was six years old, Mamie Eisenhower kissed me. Right on the top of my cowlicked head. She was a little old lady by then, and didn't have to lean down very far. She smelled, like old ladies of the day so often did, of powder and faded roses. It's the kind of thing I think will astonish young people when I'm very old, although by then I suppose none of them will have any clue who she was.


  1. In that first picture...I think she has a shoe on her head...not unlike Katherine Helmond in Brazil.

    My favorite First Lady? Eleanor Roosevelt. Took a lot of guts to tell her husband, "Franklin, if you can have a mistress, so can I!"

  2. She always seemed in need of a second fitting of whatever she was wearing. And it often looked like it was straight off the rack from Wanamaker's and Saks and Klein's...

    But I give the ol' gal credit. She seemd to enjoy herself and almost always looks genuinely happy in photos.