These Best Looks From Inaugural Balls Will Always Win Our Vote

From diamond adorned gowns to simple, yet striking designs, the presidential inaugural balls have been full of glitz and glamour. Below, see the best looks from over the years!

By Alyssa Morin Jan 19, 2021 11:00 AMTags
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No matter what party you side with, there's one thing we can all agree on: Fashion plays a major role in politics.

From rocking certain designers to choosing specific colors and silhouettes, clothes can make a powerful statement. Take one look at Kamala Harris' striking white suit during her history-making win as the Vice President of the United States.

She is the first female VP, as well as the first Black and South Asian American to hold the title. So, it made sense that her groundbreaking victory deserved an equally impressive outfit, which was cleverly riddled with symbolism. Her all-white power suit not only represented hope and positivity—two things the color white conveys—but her ensemble was a nod to the women's suffrage movement.

Kamala isn't the only politician to make a style statement. In fact, fashion is most celebrated at the presidential inaugural balls. It's a time when America's First Ladies, a handful of lucky celebs and public figures get to indulge in the glitz and glamour to celebrate the new term of the President of the United States, who also dress to impress.

Statement-Making Presidential Inauguration Fashion Over the Years

It's a night when style proves to be just as noteworthy as the event itself. For example, in 1961, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis lit up the room with a commanding cape-like coat that she draped over her regal gown, which featured intricate beading. This design was so monumental, at the time, the Washington Post said her "career as a major fashion influence was beginning impressively."

Moreover, Anna Roosevelt Dall, the daughter of Franklin D. Roosevelt and Eleanor Roosevelt, embodied the Jazz Era with her short, wavy hairstyle and modern take on fashion. For her father's inauguration ball in 1933, Anna donned an elegant floral-embroidered gown, a popular fabric at the time, that featured a low V-neckline—which was deliciously risqué for the era.

E! Illustration

Of course, we're only scratching the surface here. Scroll through our gallery below to get lost in all the razzle-dazzle. From Michelle Obama to Nancy Regan, see the best looks from the inaugural balls over the years.

First Lady Michelle Obama

Michelle Obama proved once again why she's a style icon. In 2013, for President Barack Obama's second inauguration ball, she lit up the room in a custom Jason Wu halter dress, which featured both chiffon and velvet in a fiery crimson color.

First Lady Nancy Reagan

A design that exudes both elegance and glamour! Nancy Reagan donned this glitzy number by James Galanos in 1981, which she paired with a regal cape-like coat, white gloves and intricately beaded shoes by David Evins. It's rumored her overall look cost more than $25,000.

Barbara "Babe" Paley

To celebrate President Dwight Eisenhower's inaugural ball in 1953, the socialite dressed to the nines. Everything from the look-at-me-bow to the cinched waistline made this a look to remember. Her dramatic diamond necklace was a chef's kiss.

Tony Curtis, Janet Leigh & Gene Kelly

Lights, camera, action! In 1961, the biggest and brightest stars attended President John F. Kennedy's inaugural ball, including Tony Curtis, Janet Leigh and Gene Kelly. And seeing as they were Hollywood royalty, their fashion was just as award-worthy.

First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy

Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis commanded the room with her eye-catching style, so much so that the Washington Post said her "career as a major fashion influence was beginning impressively." Wearing an Oleg Cassini design, the First Lady turned heads in a silk chiffon gown that was intricately beaded at the bodice.

First Lady Barbara Bush

Anything but blue! Barbara Bush dazzled in a sapphire velvet and satin gown by Arnold Scaasi at the 1989 inaugural ball. The First Lady's adoration of the asymmetrically draped design made her hesitant to donate it to the Smithsonian Institution. "I love this dress," she previously told Time, "and I really hate to give it up."

Alicia Keys

This girl is on fire! Alicia Keys set the stage ablaze with her glimmering red Michael Kors gown at the 2013 ceremony. Plus, she performed a remix of her hit tune, "Girl on Fire" changing the lyrics to honor President Barack Obama.

First Lady Hillary Clinton

Hillary Clinton shined bright at the 1993 ceremony with her glitzy violet gown, which was adorned with intricate beading and lace. The one-of-a-kind piece, created by Sarah Phillips and made by theatrical costume designer Barbara Matera, also featured an iridescent blue velvet silk overskirt.

First Lady Mamie Eisenhower

Pretty in pink! First Lady Mamie Eisenhower sparkled in a blush-colored gown by Nettie Rosenstein that was embroidered with—wait for it—2,000 rhinestones (!!!). What's more? Her jeweled purse was adorned with 3,456 pink pearls.

First Lady Eleanor Rosalynn Carter

A beauty in blue! At the 1977 inaugural ball, the First Lady donned a delightful pale blue gown that featured decadent gold embroidery. However, her beautiful design ruffled feathers, as she had previously debuted it to her husband's inauguration as governor of Georgia in 1971.

Anna Roosevelt Dall

The daughter of Franklin D. Roosevelt showed off her ultra-glam gown, which was made from an "antique Chinese satin brocade" that her aunt "brought back from China over fifty years ago," per Getty. Her unique gown also featured a delicate floral pattern.

First Lady Lady Bird Johnson

A sight to see! Lady Bird Johnson dazzled from head-to-toe, wearing a double-woven satin yellow gown by John Moore. Interestingly, she purchased the stunning piece at Neiman Marcus.

First Lady Helen Herron Taft

A piece of art! First Lady Helen Herron Taft looked ravishing at the 1909 ceremony, wearing a white silk chiffon gown, which featured intricate floral embroidery and decadent beading. The head-turning piece was designed by the Frances Smith Company.

John Lennon and Yoko Ono

The most-talked-about couple, John Lennon and Yoko Ono, brought the razzle-dazzle to President Jimmy Carter's ceremony in 1977.

Jennifer Hudson

Jennifer Hudson hit all the right notes at the 2013 inaugural ball: from her regal black gown to her incredible performance of Al Green's "Let's Stay Together."

First Lady Laura Bush

Lady in red! First Lady Laura Bush made a grand entrance at the 2001 inaugural ball with this eye-catching ruby-red gown by Michael Faircloth.

Dina Merrill & Kim Novak

Simple yet striking! Hollywood's glamour girls, Dina Merrill and Kim Novak, looked effortlessly chic as they both covered the inauguration of President John F. Kennedy.