'All the Way' with the other LBJ's impeccable sense of style

Lady Bird Johnson While her fashion did not scream “power house,” Lady Bird Johnson had a classic, chic fashion sense that often paired tailored styles with trendy accessories.

By Carolyn Michaels
For the DCPA NewsCenter

When history looks back on male politicians, their fashion sense is usually overlooked. But for many women in politics, their clothes played a large role in earning respect and conveying their ideas.

All the Way Lady Bird Johnson Kathleen McCallIn Power Dressing: First Ladies, Women Politicians & Fashion, fashion writer Robb Young explores the choices behind the world’s female leaders:

• Queen Hatshepsut, Egypt’s first female pharaoh in 1479 B.C., proved she was entitled to rule as a pharaoh by dressing like one. She sat on her throne bare-chested and wore a man’s kilt, false metal beard and a headdress adorned with cobras.

• Queen Elizabeth’s opulent dresses and jewelry illustrated her kingdom’s wealth. The style made her look imposing and invincible to those who wished to oust her.

• Once American women were allowed to vote and serve in office, their outfits were considered distracting. When Rep. Katherine Langley of Kentucky wore a blue and red dress in 1920, a reporter commented, “She offends the squeamish by her unstinted display of gypsy colors on the floor.”

• Former Prime Minister of India Indira Gandhi used her sari to communicate nationalism and seriousness. Gandhi’s saris were made out of khadi, a fabric woven by Indians to oppose British rule and display their economic empowerment.

• British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher would intimidate naysayers by slamming her Ferragamo handbag onto the table to show she meant business.

(Pictured above and right: Kathleen McCall as Lady Bird Johnson in the DCPA Theatre Company’s ‘All the Way,’ running through Sunday, Feb. 28. Costume design by David Kay Mickelsen. Photo by Adams Visual Communications.) 

As for American First Ladies, a book by Annette B. Dunlap suggests that, before Michelle Obama, only three deserve much attention for their fashion sense: Jackie Kennedy, Nancy Reagan and Lady Bird Johnson. The other LBJ, 17 years older than Jackie, would be an unlikely pick. But she deserves to be included in the pantheon of stylish first ladies, says Dunlap:

“Lady Bird had the unenviable position of succeeding Jackie at a time of great tragedy. Not only were we fixated on the lost youth and luster of the Kennedy administration, but it’s kind of hard to put the words glamorous and Johnson Administration together in a sentence. Lady Bird was no beauty, but the truth is, neither was Jackie. But Lady Bird loved beauty, and she understood the importance of being surrounded by beauty. Lady Bird’s yellow satin gown and sable trimmed matching coat radiated warmth and happiness. Not to mention that the gown was created by an American-born designer, John Moore.

Lady Bird’s sense of style was impeccable. Like many of her successors, she lost weight and took advice on how to make the best of her appearance. Her tailored dresses and slacks outfits were always accented with a scarf, a belt, or, since they still wore them in those days, often a hat. Lady Bird did not overtly make a statement with her clothing, as had her predecessor, but she clearly knew that what she wore spoke volumes.”  

Explore the fashion sense of LBJ and his contemporaries in All the Way, playing
in the Stage Theatre through Feb. 28.

Carolyn Michaels is a copywriter for the Denver Center for the Performing Arts.

All the Way: Ticket information

  • By Robert Schenkkan
  • Through Feb. 28 at the Stage Theatre
  • Tickets: 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
  • TTY: 303-893-9582
  • Groups of 15 or more: 303-446-4829
  • Also: Purchase in person at The Denver Center Ticket Office, located at the Helen Bonfils Theatre Complex lobby. Buy and print online at DenverCenter.Org.
  • Previous NewsCenter coverage of All the Way
    All the Way Opening Night coverage: Drama on and off-stage
    5 things we learned about ‘All the Way’: Johnson gave a dam!
    Video: Cast reads from Civil Rights Act
    When Robert Schenkkan meets LBJ, sparks fly
    Five ways you don’t have to connect the dots ‘All the Way’ to today
    Todd Cerveris: Break a leg from Broadway
    Art and Artist: Meet Stage Manager Rachel Ducat

    Full casting announced
    Official show page
    DCPA Theatre Company giddily going down rabbit hole in 2015-16

    Meet the Cast Profiles (to date)
    Meet Todd Cerveris
    Meet Paul DeBoy
    Meet Mike Hartman

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