in an Ice Blue Dress
Delights in Worship of Unattainable Affluence
always thought that one of America’s best selling points was that it
never had a king. If there is one thing that defines us as a people,
as opposed to all other peoples, it is this fact. Every other nation
in the world has a dozen or so of those embarrassing chapters from the
past to live down. Not us. The moment of our conception was a rejection
of the very idea of kings. All of that goes out the window whenever
we have a presidential inauguration. The urge to turn the White House
into Buckingham Palace (or, more to the point, Camelot) is one of the
oldest and most shameful traditions of the media age, but this disgusting
phenomenon always heats to whiteness during inauguration week, regardless
of what party is ascending to power. What a splendiferous reception
hall! Look at all the rich and tasty things on the banquet table! Why,
it must be a hundred feet long!
set the stage from your perspective," gushed serial ass-kisser
Wolf Blitzer, as he threw to Paula Zahn, standing at the inauguration
site, on CNN. "This is a majestic moment for the entire
heard about all the majesty; from the scalloped crab, roasted Missouri
quail, chestnuts and brined root vegetables at the post-inauguration
congressional luncheon ("Mmm, scalloped crab sounds good,"
said CNN anchor Carol Costello) to the mariachi band, Cohiba cigars
and "buffet tables loaded with Tex-Mex fare" at the "Black
Tie & Boots" ball the night before ("I feel very simpatico
with the people of Texas," offered shameless-hanger-on-in-a-cowboy-hat
Rudy Giuliani) to the elegant inauguration lunch at Statuary Hall in
the Capitol ("It's majestic," repeated the fixated
Blitzer. "What a beautiful hall, for those of our viewers who have
never been inside the U.S. Capitol..."). And so on and so on. Then
there was this Washington Times description of the king stepping
into the courtyard to meet his subjects at the Boogie Ball:
At 9:30 p.m., Mr. Bush and his wife, first lady Laura Bush, took
the stage with daughters Jenna and Barbara, and the crowd went wild.
Mrs. Bush wore a rose silk taffeta Carolina Herrera ensemble with a
Western touch—a full skirt and bodice resembling a button-down shirt.
Jenna wore black and white, and Barbara seafoam green.
"It's nice to be home," the president told the throng.
"Or as close to home as you can get in Washington."
Then, to even louder cheers, Mr. Bush said, "The best decision
I ever made was asking Laura to marry me."
Laura would be wearing a rose silk taffeta Carolina Herrera ensemble
with a Western touch was known in advance. The press had been briefed.
And with this news, the press ran and ran. The Queen's inauguration
outfits were a story, a non-sarcastic story, in almost every paper in
the country last week, to the point where Oscar de la Renta, the designer
of her now-famous "ice blue" inauguration ceremony ensemble,
was received by the press as though he were a visiting head of state.
Couric was in the receiving line. "Many of us forget what's in
the speeches, because a lot of us are focused on what the first lady
is wearing," she gushed, as she introduced de la Renta on her show.
"And wait no longer, this is a gown first lady Laura Bush will
wear to this evening's inaugural balls. It's a silvery blue number designed
by Oscar de la Renta..."
the designer, she said, "Hi, Oscar. May I call you Oscar?"
asked permission, ladies and gentlemen. Oscar consented.
la Renta then did his job. The playbook for celebrity suck-up is universal.
Like Angelo Dundee dutifully telling ESPN at the premiere of Ali
that Will Smith could have been a top-flight middleweight instead
of an actor, de la Renta pulled out the standard pre-fight hype: Laura
had the "most extraordinary sort of blue eyes I've ever seen in
any lady," that blue with a little turquoise was the only possible
color for such a specimen, etc., etc. But Katie just couldn't get past
the name thing.
a designer," she began, "I have to call you Mr. De La Renta—as
a designer, Mr. De La Renta..."
please don't," said Caesar, refusing the crown.
know, but it's so weird for me, Oscar," she said. Then she added:
"But, as a designer, is this really one of the most coveted assignments
you can think of?"
it was, Oscar agreed. The rest of the press corps seconded the motion.
The St. Petersburg Times raved over the "much-touted silvery-blue
tulle dress," hyping also the other inauguration dresses designed
by one Sally Jennings, who once designed a dress for Adele Graham, wife
of Senator Bob Graham. The Graham dress, the Times noted, was
"a white silk chiffon dress with little triangles along the hem,
a subtle clue that Adele was a Tri Delta." The Atlanta Journal-Constitution,
echoing the brand-identifying sociopathy of American Psycho,
noted that Laura would attack this political event by "[slipping]
into custom-made Stuart Weitzman shoes: pearl gray leather D'Orsay pumps
for day and silver lace pumps for night."
New York Times, as is its wont, did not simply baldly kiss Laura's
skirts, but instead deigned to draw global conclusions from her dress.
In a piece that asserted that "A More Relaxed Laura Bush Shows
Complexity Under Calm," the putatively serious journalist Todd
Purdum wrote, "She sits on a red damask settee in the White House
Map Room... stroking Miss Beazley, her new Scottie puppy, a tiny feminine
form of Roosevelt's beloved Fala. Her gray pinstripe pantsuit is soft
and perfectly put together, and so is she."
course, once this is all over, all of these news organizations will
go back to being ball-busting crusaders for truth. It only seems
like they're totally enjoying this little vacation of kneeling at the
altar of fabulousness and throwing rose petals at a mute Texas housewife.