WHAT SHOULD JENNA WEAR?
It’s a question preoccupying many people in the White House these days as First Daughter Jenna Bush prepares for what is expected to be a spring wedding. Most observers pick May 10 as the date — and not in Washington, which one fashion friend said the Dallas-born Jenna and twin sister Barbara have never considered home.
So with First Lady Laura Bush due in Manhattan later this week for fashion week, WWD decided to lend a helping hand and asked 12 designers to sketch the confections they envision the fair-haired twin should don when she marries Henry Hager. Whatever the First Daughter decides to wear, she is certain to get some fashion advice from her sister, a Cooper-Hewitt Design Museum staffer who is a regular on Gotham’s fashion scene — not to mention her mother. After all, while the dark-haired, designer-wearing twin interned at Proenza Schouler and Lela Rose, Laura Bush is the one who carries the clout with heavyweight designers like Oscar de la Renta and Carolina Herrera.
Ever the diplomat, the First Lady has said in interviews that she is “looking forward to having the wedding Jenna wants.”
And should the 26-year-old change her mind and wed in the White House — unlikely as that seems — the betrothed Bush would become the ninth daughter of an incumbent president to have a wedding at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. James Monroe’s daughter Maria was the first to do so in 1820 and Tricia Nixon was the last one, in 1971.
“I would want Jenna to make the statement, and not just be about the gown itself,” said Lela Rose, who recommended a strapless sheath with a little volume on the bottom.
By chance, de la Renta, Vera Wang, Badgley Mischka, Carlos Miele and Amsale also whipped up strapless gowns. Wang, the go-to bridal designer for many celebrities, and J.Mendel designer Gilles Mendel, a favorite of the socialite set, earned overachiever status for submitting two designs each.
A simple and classic silk satin organza dress would emphasize the First Twin’s good looks, according to Arnold Scaasi. And should she want a train, he would design a detachable one so “it could be taken off after the ceremony and she could dance the night away. They’re young and peppy. Why shouldn’t they be able to dance around?”
Mark Badgley, who, along with James Mischka, designed Jenna’s dress and some party clothes for the most recent inaugural, described her as “fun, very spontaneous and stylish.” After one fitting, the First Lady “graciously invited” the designers to lunch and Badgley said he was delighted to see the family cat sitting on the table five inches from his plate. “I loved that. It was all about the animals. [First Dog] Miss Beasley was at your feet. It was very homey, very welcoming. I remember the girls zooming in and zooming out. It was difficult to get all three together,” he said. “The girls were very spontaneous and easy, and they love, love, love fashion. And Mrs. Bush was sort of around for neckline patrol at times.”
Etiquette maven Letitia Baldrige said the First Family appears to be set on a low-key wedding to avoid having any buzzing helicopters with paparazzi shooting overhead. With everyone being criticized for spending money on indulgences in this shaky economy, a big, splashy White House wedding could ironically be in order.
“One of the pluses, in my opinion, for 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and its accompanying excess press coverage is that it would give a jump-start kick to the economy. Every future bride in the country would probably be influenced by the Bush dress, veil, shoes, hosiery and jewelry. American brides will be rushing out to copy it all as closely as possible, and will therefore be spending and spending. They would be influenced in their choice of china, silver and crystal patterns, the food and drink served at the reception and in all other details, too,” she said.
But perhaps pitching a tent off-site and raising the Champagne flutes is the way to go for the Bush gang. After all, a White House press aide said she had encouraged Tricia Nixon to elope.