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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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Along with the stand-by-your-man loyalty, the First Lady’s sense of humor sometimes cloaks her strong sense of self. When presented with the idea she has in the past bristled at the description of being traditional, the Texas native, who wed at 31, squares her shoulders, tugs on her jacket, crosses her arms and says, “Well, not bristled, I would say,” pausing for a quick laugh. “Who said bristled?”

When a press secretary names a reporter, Bush laughs again and tries to set the record straight.

“Actually, I’m interested in that, really, because I’m wondering what people mean when they say ‘traditional.’ It’s a label that…I don’t really know what people mean when they say it, exactly,” she says. “I certainly had jobs that are considered traditional women’s jobs — as a teacher and a librarian — so maybe that’s what they mean.

“You know, I think maybe the press, particularly, likes to put a box around the First Lady. She’s one way or another and I don’t think that’s really right,” adds Bush. “I mean, I think everybody, but especially women who have lived here, are a lot more complex.”

Perhaps that was one reason Bush was, until recently, determined not to discuss fashion and style. Now, not one for pretenses, she laughs at the idea of having any fashion strategy and looks at her aides for a little input. “My main fashion strategy has always been, my whole life, comfort,” says Bush, 57. “Since my husband has been governor and President I have a much larger wardrobe than I had before, when I went to baseball games 60 nights a year [when the future President co-owned the Texas Rangers]. I had pants and sweaters to wear to games.”

Over time, the First Lady has gradually warmed up to the necessity of dressing well or just plain dressing up. Friends say she’s even grown to like receiving fabric swatches from designers. While she admits she has never been much of a clothes shopper — preferring to browse, but not actually buy, antiques and furniture — she’s grown to enjoy high fashion. She’s also grown more comfortable talking about it.
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