NEW YORK — Her husband’s approval rating might be slipping, but Laura Bush earned high marks Monday for her red-dress address at 7th on Sixth.

As the ambassador of The Heart Truth, a national awareness campaign about heart disease sponsored by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, Bush touched down in the Bryant Park tents to plug the cause. Oscar de la Renta and Cynthia Steffe were on hand for the festivities.

“I’m pleased to loan one of my favorite red dresses by one of my favorite designers,” she said, referring to the ruby red de la Renta suit on display, not the one she was wearing. That number, along with 26 designer dresses that were worn by top runway models at Friday’s Red Dress Collection, will be part of the Red Dress road show touring stores and promoting heart-health clinics in Philadelphia, Chicago, Dallas, San Diego and Miami.

“Oscar has been setting fashion trends for more than 40 years. Thanks to him and other talented designers, women are learning that being healthy never goes out of style,” Bush said.

Despite the emphasis on heart health, Bush managed to squeeze in a little time for fashion. Unable to attend de la Renta’s show because of security reasons, the First Lady visited the designer backstage afterward with 7th on Sixth’s Fern Mallis. Bush spun through the show’s clothes and took in the vacated space.

“We explained what goes on here, and told her about all the energy and excitement,” Mallis said.

Meanwhile, a few reporters were wondering where the First Lady was. Fifteen minutes after the scheduled start time, one scribe pointed to her wristwatch and said, “After following her for a few weeks, I can tell you she is not her husband. He’s awful. He’ll show up early and start.”

Bush told de la Renta and Mallis that her daughters, Jenna and Barbara, will be in town later this week to take in a few shows. The ladies of the First Family lunched with a group of friends at Fred’s Saturday and then shopped at Barneys’ flagship. There, they ran into fellow Texans Anthony Camargo and Knak Armstrong, the duo behind the Anthony Knak jewelry line, who have bejeweled the Bushes in the past for personal and Presidential occasions.But Mrs. Bush’s visit to Bryant Park was not nearly as low-key. Photographers piled up like a cheerleaders’ pyramid and bulbs flashed frenetically as soon as she appeared. Mallis noted this was the first First Lady to attend the shows. “We’ve had some really great guests, but none as important as Laura Bush,” Mallis said.

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