Rosalynn Carter was an unconventional first lady whose style was often dismissed as unfashionable or outdated. However, she was a pioneer in bringing down-home morality and simplicity to the White House, emphasizing values of economy, accessibility, and sustainability. Mrs. Carter broke sartorial rules, eschewing elaborate gowns in favor of wearing recycled, off-the-rack clothes at official events, a move that shocked and horrified many. Additionally, her active advisory role in the administration was signified by her unusual choice to establish an office in the East Wing and to carry a briefcase to work each morning, even though it contradicted the traditional image associated with first ladies. Her modest, American-made shirtwaists and frilly collars underscored her commitment to simplicity and her ethos of the Carter administration.
Despite being criticized during her time in the White House, Rosalynn Carter’s style as first lady is now being recognized as ahead of its time. Her emphasis on sustainability, traditions, and homely values is now echoed in the approach of Jill Biden, the current first lady, who is applauded for her simple, folksy style that promotes sustainability by repeating outfits. The current admiration for Mrs. Carter’s style marks a significant contrast from the initial public reception, highlighting her influence and the enduring relevance of her approach to image-making. Rosalynn Carter’s legacy endures as a trailblazer in redefining the traditional role and style of a first lady, shaping a new standard that emphasizes practicality and sustainability in the fashion and political landscape.