• U.S.

Modern Living: Inaugural Togs: Less Is More

3 minute read

No one ever accused Rosalynn Carter of dressing daringly. The new First Lady comes across as Peck & Peck’s good girl, appearing in neat, classically modest outfits that always seem to look like last year’s models. The dress she has chosen for the Inaugural Ball will be older: for sentimental reasons, she is wearing the same blue chiffon gown she wore six years ago at her debut as the First Lady of Georgia. But besides something old and blue, she will also have something new—an ice blue evening cape by New York Designer Dominic Rompollo, who launched his own label only a year ago.

Rompollo, 40, says Mrs. Carter prefers “a beautiful, covered look, not too much fuss or too many frills.” With that in mind, he has also created her swearing-in togs: an understated wool dress with a fitted waist and slightly flared skirt, a classic wool coat and a fringed wool shawl. All are in a rich blue-green Rompollo calls “Rosalynn green.”

Pre-Rosalynn, few outside the fashion business had heard of Rompollo. His main business is supplying medium-priced ($100-$300), ready made dresses to department stores and dress shops. Mrs. Carter is his first custom client. Among Rompollo’s dress-shop outlets is Jason’s in Americus, Ga.. where Rosalynn sometimes goes to buy her clothes off the rack. “Mrs. Carter is totally unimpressed by famous-name labels.” says Jason’s President Jack Moses. “If she likes an inexpensive item, she’ll take the inexpensive item.”

Moses, who had commissioned Marie Matise to design Rosalynn’s six-year-old ball gown, wanted to do something special again for Jan. 20. He asked several designers for sketches. Rompollo, a forehanded fellow, had been collecting photographs of Mrs. Carter ever since the election in order to get a feel for her style. His suggested designs were the simplest of the lot.

Knack for Thrift. Another designer whose clothes Mrs. Carter sometimes buys is Eleanor Brenner, also a relatively unheralded name in fashion. She has put together the Inaugural costumes for Joan Mondale, wife of the Vice President-elect. Like Rompollo, Seventh Avenue’s Brenner has a knack for simplicity, practicality and thrift. Mrs. Mondale, she says, “likes clothes that give her mileage”—which is perhaps the reason the new Second Lady has been stocking up on Brenner dresses for the past four years. A typical purchase is a knit dress ($130) that can be worn plain or with a blouse, and which travels well. Mrs. Mondale wore one often during the campaign.

On the Inaugural platform. Mrs. Mondale will be wearing a wool skirt and sweater-like jacket of fire-engine red. with a matching overcoat. The contrast with Rosalynn green may be striking. But the costume styling of both women will be functional and a bit, well, conventional. For the people’s Inauguration of the avowed no-nonsense new Administration, it should be perfect.

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