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Sep 30, 2014 11:59 PM

First ladies get the 'Project Runway' treatment

The Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) America's first ladies went under Tim Gunn's fashion microscope Tuesday night, and the results weren't always positive.

Style guru Gunn and a panel of experts cast a critical eye on first lady fashions at a National Archives forum, and not everyone fared as well as Michelle Obama.

The current first lady got top fashion reviews from Gunn and the other panelists, with Gunn rating her style sense as "divine."

But he wondered why Edith Wilson, wife of Woodrow Wilson, felt compelled to play amateur seamstress and remake her dresses over and over.

As for possible future administrations, Gunn took note that Hillary Rodham Clinton's been looking "rather presidential lately." But the panelists said it had taken Clinton some time to warm up to the idea that a first lady's style reflects on her husband's administration.

Valerie Steele, director of The Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology, noted that in the days of Sarah Polk, wife to James Polk, women wanted to show off a tiny waist, hands and feet, but have "plump, voluptuous shoulders and a big, big butt."

"That sounds like Nicki Minaj, JLo and Kim K.," designer Tracy Reese declared.

Reese eyed a picture of an ivory brocade dress of Polk's with a flouncy bottom and wondered aloud, "Can you imagine Kim Kardashian in that?"

Gunn sniffed: "I'd prefer not to."

The forum was held at the National Archives, which has "signature" items worn by Jacqueline Kennedy and Mrs. Obama on display as part of its exhibit, "Making their Mark: Stories Through Signatures." Among the items on display: The black and red Narciso Rodriguez dress worn by Mrs. Obama on the night of the 2008 election in Chicago, and a pillbox hat worn by Mrs. Kennedy. The forum was presented in partnership with the White House Historical Association.


Follow Nancy Benac on Twitter at http://twitter.com/nbenac


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