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First lady style

Laura Bush's '01 inaugural gown


Former US First Lady Laura Bush
Rick Diamond/Staff/Getty Images Entertainment

See Current Inaugural Dresses for the First Lady and daughters, 2005

Most Americans can't debate the fine points of Social Security's future. But they know an ugly dress when they see it.

That's why even armchair fashionistas lament First Lady Laura Bush's frumpy suits and wait to see if her style metamorphoses from clueless to chic.

A big part of Laura's new start was The Dress.

The Inaugural Ball gown sounded great on paper: red, scoop-necked, sparkling with Austrian crystals and designed by Dallas native Michael Faircloth (whose other claim to fame are his styles for the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders.)

Bush's ruby confection was accessorized by a Judith Leiber purse, Stuart Weitzman shoes and more than 40 carats of rubies.

"The first lady's inaugural gown represents the personal attitude the incoming couple and specifically, the first lady, has about her role and the way she wants to be perceived," said Washington Post fashion editor Robin Givhan to ABC News.com.

Pantone, the color authority, has this to say about red: "Red creates the highest arousal threshold. So, from nighties to sportscars, it is true that red literally can turn you on! The person buying the red sportscar subliminally believes that he or she will be magically transformed into a sexy, dynamic and daring person."

Bush looked great in a peacock blue coat and skirt for the swearing in Saturday morning, also designed by Faircloth. (Blue, incidentally, signifies qualities like trust, stability and integrity). Lynne Cheney, the Vice President's wife, wore a camel colored, fur-trimmed coat.

CNN reported that Bush would don a hat for the swearing in, but she went hatless in the end. She followed in mother-in-law Barbara Bush's footsteps because she was one of the few who went hatless for her husband's Inauguration.

No one is looking for the new First Lady to spark fashion trends with her early outfits.

But after Hillary Clinton's transformation from headbands to Vogue covers, all eyes are on Bush to shed her matronly suits for something younger (like Hillary's uniform of chic black pantsuits paired with bright blouses).

With her curvy size 8 figure and good coloring, Bush could carry off everything from strong colors to shapely cuts.

Bush's twin daughters decided on daytime styles from Lela Rose, a New York designer. Susan Dell of Austin (wife of Dell Computers' CEO, Michael Dell) designed the Inaugural Ball dresses for the girls.

Faircloth, who has been designing Bush's size 8 clothes for seven years, uses European fabrics and does all the beadwork and embroidery in-house, with prices ranging from $3,400 to $7,500 (although, presumably, the Inauguration gown cost would be considerably higher), according to Town & Country.

After the Inauguration, Bush's gown went to the Smithsonian to become part of "The First Ladies' Gown Collection."

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