The Silver Fox

And now for something completely different: a down-to-earth First Lady

  • Share
  • Read Later

(4 of 7)

Barbara's clothes are attractive, but she will never be known, as her predecessor was, by her designer affiliation. To keep from hyping Seventh Avenue, she broke with tradition and did not issue a press release about her Inaugural gown in advance, although details leaked out.

As for weight, well, she enjoys eating too much ever to be as svelte as she once was. She laments that the campaign added 13 lbs. to her 5-ft. 8-in. frame. During the Bushes' Florida postelection vacation, photos appeared of her swimming in the type of bathing suit popular with matrons in the '50s. Later, she jokingly asked photographers to cap their lenses -- "My children are complaining all over the country." When she told a reporter that her trademark pearls were $90 fakes worn to hide her wrinkles, it was a comment on the universal regret at aging and the hopeless human foible of trying to hide it.

Barbara Bush has been training for her new job as long as her husband has been prepping for his. The third of four children of a father who worked his way up the ladder to become president of the McCall Corp., which among other things owned McCall's magazine, and a mother happy to entertain and garden in suburban Rye, Barbara attended public and private schools. She finished at Ashley Hall, a South Carolina prep school where neglecting to wear white gloves was virtually a punishable offense. At a party in Greenwich, Conn., during Christmas break her senior year, she met George Bush, recently graduated from Andover. A generic dancer -- she complains that whatever the tempo, he does the fox-trot -- George asked her to sit out a waltz. They sat down and fell in love. The two became engaged that summer in Kennebunkport. It was a secret engagement, Bush says, meaning "the German and Japanese high commands weren't aware of it." But after Bush was shot down over the Pacific in September 1944, Barbara dropped out of Smith in her sophomore year to marry him at the First Presbyterian Church in Rye. "I married the first man I ever kissed," she says. "When I tell this to my children, they just about throw up."

  1. 1
  2. 2
  3. 3
  4. 4
  5. 5
  6. 6
  7. 7