Dolley Madison was one of America’s early first ladies who knew how to make an appearance. She loved fashion and wore the beautiful, embroidered gowns of her time with pride. Pearls graced her neck at the many White House parties she hosted, and she almost always wore a decorative turban on her head. She treasured the House so that when it was set afire in 1814 during her husband’s presidency, she bravely saved George Washington’s famous portrait, refusing to leave until the frame was broken and the painting handed off for safe keeping.
Jacqueline Kennedy’s timeless style cannot be surpassed. Her smile put everyone at ease. In photographs taken at her husband’s inauguration in January of 1961, she looks stunning in a pale blue cloth coat as she sits among a sea of mink-coated ladies. Like Dolley Madison before her, this first lady also favored pearls about her neck. Sadly, her most remembered suit is the raspberry pink worn in Dallas on November 22, 1963.
When Nancy Reagan was our first lady, she often wore gowns and dresses in red, a color she wore quite well. She enjoyed lovely beading and sparkling texture in her gowns. She ordered beautiful new china for the White House, adorned in red borders and gold edging.
Making a good impression, showing that you care about what you present to others, is one way to show how you feel about yourself. And in the case of these beautiful first ladies, their appearances and their care of the White House displayed their love and honor for our country as well.
Although the outer appearance has a place of importance, it is what is hidden within that is most vital and lasting. This is something the apostle Paul knew well. He didn’t have the flare of our first ladies when it came to an outward impression, but he knew the importance of what lay within, even chastising those focused only on the outside at the church in Corinth:
The trouble with you is that you look at me and I seem weak and powerless, but you don’t look beneath the surface. Yet if anyone can claim the power and authority of Christ, I certainly can. 2 Corinthians 10:7
Paul was wise in his letter to the church. He knew that the trouble really does start when we fail to look beneath the surface. Things are not always what they seem to be, and wisdom means looking beyond first appearances.