WWDExclusive: Meeting Mrs. Bush: The First Lady on Politics, Style and Keeping Her Cool

First Lady Laura Bush opens up about the campaign ahead, the comfort of Crawford, being in the “wives of world leaders club,” and of course, style.

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The First Lady’s wedding photo in 1977.

Photo By Provided by George H. Bush Presidential Library

WASHINGTON — “Mother, your hair moves as a unit.” That’s the only fashion critique the Bush daughters Barbara and Jenna give to First Lady Laura Bush, who laughs and tosses back her highlighted hair for effect — as well as demonstrating it actually does have body. And the two First Daughters are nothing if not fashion aware — after all, they’ve been front-row presences at the New York fashion shows for the last few seasons and Barbara Bush has even interned at Lela Rose.

But don’t expect the twins to make fashion a career. “I suspect it’s been a lot of fun to intern while she’s in college,” the First Lady says with certainty about her daughter, Barbara, a senior at Yale. “But probably when she gets out, she won’t go into the fashion business, would be my guess.” Then she adds, “But I have no idea.”

Awareness of the fashion world is something that has been growing in the Bush household ever since George W. Bush became president three years ago. In an exclusive interview with WWD on Friday morning, the First Lady covered topics as diverse as her favorite American designers (and one European throwback from her Texas days); how she’s fixed up the White House with some furniture previously used by the Kennedys; her well-known love of books; her dissatisfaction with being labeled a “traditional” wife, and, perhaps surprising to some of his critics, the fact that her husband does, indeed, read. Mostly biographies and histories. The current choice: “We Are Lincoln Men: Abraham Lincoln and His Friends” by David Herbert Donald.

There were no fireworks, but then Bush is renowned for her sense of control and for avoiding controversy. The closest she comes is when she says that, like her husband, she expects the main issues of this year’s election campaign to be “the economy…and I think national security because of the times we live in.” But even there she neatly sidesteps any discussion of jobs or gay marriage — the two examples that had been dangled before her.

The White House bustled on Friday. Barney, the First Couple’s black Scottish Terrier, barked midway through the interview until Bush let him out. Former first lady Barbara Bush was in town for an overnighter, to be joined later by her husband, former President George H.W. Bush, for a cancer research benefit. Their son and current President was busy leading an international women’s rights forum, while a group of preservationists met on White House renovations. In the middle of it all, the First Couple had to find time to dash off to the Spanish Embassy to sign a condolence book for the victims of the Madrid terrorist bombings.
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