‘NANCY REAGAN – A Return to Camelot’


By Margie Anne Clark

SIMI VALLEY – Like a late 20th Century vignette of Camelot, the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum opened a new exhibit, Nancy Reagan – A First Lady’s Style on November 10 in Simi Valley.The exhibit showcases more than 50 years of Nancy Reagan’s fashion, beginning with her 1952 wedding dress and concluding with the suit she wore for President Reagan’s funeral in June 2004.In recounting the Reagan story – starring two star-crossed lovers whose biggest double-billing played out on the world stage for all to see – Russ Jenkins, exhibit designer and owner of WRJ Design Associates LLC was on hand to give visitors an early glimpse of Nancy’s collection.“She was a tremendous example of a first lady,” Jenkins said as he thumbed through the pages of a pictorial book that is currently available for purchase at the Library. The colorful book puts into context many of the fashions that will be on display for the duration of the exhibit which runs through Nov. 10, 2008.“The public will be able to see the beauty of her gowns that she wore during their travels and wonderful dinners,” explained Jenkins, of Nancy’s carefully preserved and donated cache of Tulle, satin, gabardine and lace. “The dresses are absolutely spectacular and show the history and legacy of Mrs. Reagan,” he added.If fashion can be defined as a universal language of who we are and where we are going, then Nancy Reagan spoke it fluently – and with a radiance and grace that defined a presidential legacy. Indeed, Nancy’s timeless style during the Reagan years of the 1980s may well have served as an elegant reflection of her husband’s magnanimous optimism. “We are creating a nation once again vibrant, robust, and alive,” President Ronald Reagan once said during his second inaugural address on Jan. 21, 1985. Through it all, polished and poised, Nancy – whose charming allure never ceased to captivate her iconic husband throughout their 52- year marriage – was always by his side. Jenkins’ WRJ Design Associates LLC, is a New York firm that specializes in exhibition design. Jenkins explained that Imagery and architectural elements resembling the White House will carry the audience through the exhibit and highlight milestones of history. The exhibit will focus on Nancy’s duties as first lady, her philanthropic endeavors and the love story that she and the president shared. The glamorous and often poignant exhibit opened amidst a celebrity-studded private gala reception on Nov. 8 in Simi Valley. Diane von Furstenberg served as master of ceremonies appearing with such luminaries as James Galanos, Carolina Herrera and Oscar de la Renta. Jenkins noted that the first lady’s collection includes pieces by Galanos, Herrera, de la Renta, Geoffrey Beene, Bill Blass, Valentino Garavani, Adolfo and Yves Saint Laurent. “Through her generosity in donating most of her closet, Mrs. Reagan has given us a wonderful opportunity to understand her role of representing our country. She was a tremendous first lady,” Jenkins said. “The display also showcases the incredible talent of the American fashion designer, while reflecting Mrs. Reagan’s taste of eye for style,” Jenkins said, noting that in 1988, the Council of Fashion Designers of America bestowed its Lifetime Achievement Award upon Nancy Reagan. In a written statement, the former first lady and actress, who went on to become an icon of American couture fashion at its finest, expressed her gratitude for the privileges she enjoyed during her White House years. “I am delighted that these designers are being recognized for their incredible talent. It was an honor to wear each of these pieces, and every gown, dress and suit brings back wonderful memories; moments in my life that I will remember and cherish forever.”

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