I Like Mamie

As inaugural fever revs up in the US, I thought of the first inauguration I remember, that of Dwight Eisenhower in 1953. The First Lady's ballgown, as usual, captured the public's attention, but Mamie Doud Eisenhower inspired more than look-alike dresses.
The gown's colour, "Mamie Pink" entered the psyche as one of the defining hues of the American 1950s.

At age five, I remember nothing of the actual event, but for decades we lived with the shade that captivated my mother. Dad was a Stevenson man all the way, but he bowed to Mom's taste in decor. She was renovating the house, so we got a Mamie Pink-tiled bathroom with matching fixtures. Another bathroom was done in a discreet gray that Dad called "Adlai Gray", and the third in an equally-'50s seafoam that went nameless.

That gown, by Nettie Rosenstein of New York, of silk finished with over 2,000 rhinestones, would look beautiful worn today.

Mrs. Eisenhower adored pretty dresses, was game for striking accessories, and had a rather daring eye. Look at this hat she wore to the swearing-in ceremony!

She did have one unfortunate style signature,
very short bangs. To this day, I tell mostly uncomprehending hairdressers "don't make me look like Mamie Eisenhower". Apparently she had advice about her 'do, but just ignored it, and kept that style for sixty years.

Mamie aged very graciously; I think she looked best in her senior years, when she often wore tur
bans and bold jewelry.

I may make it a mission, when I am 70, to bring back the turban; think of the earrings you can wear!


Julianne said…
That is a beautiful gown. Do you know if it resides in the Smithsonian? It has inspired me to see if there is a collection of inaugural gowns. I am planning a trip to DC to see the Cherry Blossoms and that would be a great addition. I can't wait to watch all the inaugural happenings.
Deja Pseu said…
What a beautiful gown, and probably very flattering.

I think the short bangs worked once she hit the turban years.
Anonymous said…
I love this post! It is amazing to think one can really hit one's style stride in her 70s!!! My Grandmother wasn't beautiful until she turned 80 or so...Then I thought she was at her "peak."

I love the hope Mamie brings, and I love her trademark bangs!
~Tessa~Scoffs said…
I am absolutely loving your posts! I had a friend who (in high school) wore a turban and red lipstick...to the beach.
WendyB said…
Actually the very young girls were doing the turban look last year! No need to wait till 70.
materfamilias said…
I was born in '53 and have no conscious memory at all of the Eisenhower era -- my earliest awareness of politics involved references to Lester Pearson and JFK. But those two colours, that particular pale pink and the dove grey -- ah! I can sense vague vestigial impressions of various fabrics -- damasked curtains? The palette was generally more subdued then, and we were not yet so jaded and in search of novelty. It seems to me that all our senses operated in a world whose dials were not turned so far up!
i'm guessing from examples of my friends and relatives that your 70s is *the* time to freshen up your style, or rev up the style you already wear.

have any of you seen Advanced Style? this fabulous website dedicated to the more "mature" set?

Duchesse said…
Julianne: Yes, it is there.

Karen: Agree; that's why I laugh when I read posts that indicate it's all over after 30, or even (as I read recently) 17.
Tessa: Wow! The beach... gives me ideas.
Wendy: Wow! again, what a cool retro look!
materfamilias: I think of my mother's friends, who would not be caught dead in daywear when their husbands returned from work. A different world!
bonie-ann: Have seeen it. I am not in agreement with some of her accolades (to put it tactfully); the best-looking shots she posts are older people shot by The Sartorialist.
i don't say you have to love their style, but it is nice to see older people wearing items with real joie de vivre. and not stuck in some old black coat and fuzzy hat.
Toby Wollin said…
In 1953, Mamie Eisenhower was 57 years old...and she wore a pink dress. So, who says pink is just for kids??
s. said…
What a delightful post; thank you! I tire of reading over and over about Jackie Kennedy's style when so many other first ladies had charming styles all their own. How refreshing to see this wee ode to Mamie.

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