Style

Nancy Reagan's fashion influence: A look at her 'simple and elegant' style

Nancy Reagan, who died Sunday at the age of 94, was many things: an actress, a first lady, the founder of "Just Say No." And she was also a fashion icon — a first lady known for bringing a sense of style to the White House that the U.S. hadn't seen since Jackie Kennedy.

Channeling a background in Hollywood, where she was an actress when she met her husband, Reagan brought chic and simple glamour to her first lady wardrobe.

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Nancy Reagan wears a James Galanos gown at the 1991 Inaugural Ball.
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U.S. President Ronald Reagan and wife Nancy wait for the arrival of a Head-of-State guest at the North Portico of the White House in Washington, DC in this undated photo.

Designers who flocked to dress Reagan included Oscar de la Renta, Bill Blass, Adolfo, Carolina Herrera, James Galanos, Arnold Scassi. Throughout her husband's presidency from 1981-1987, the first lady's gowns featured simple silhouettes (though sometimes embracing the large shoulders that were staples of 80s fashion).

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Ronald and Nancy Reagan in Tokyo, Japan on Nov. 14, 1983.

RELATED: From actress to first lady, a look at Nancy Reagan's life in photos

Her business looks were predominately Chanel-inspired suits with pussy-bow blouses and her casual wear encapsulated the All-American attitude of her husband's office (simple slacks, button downs, sweaters and the occasional pair of blue jeans).

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President and Mrs. Ronald Reagan at Rancho del Cielo, California on Aug. 13, 1981.

Galanos, who dressed Reagan for both the 1981 and 1985 inaugural balls, told the Los Angeles Times that the first lady "knew her style very well, and it was always simple and elegant."

Reagan herself said as much in a 2007 interview with W Magazine. “I don’t like a lot of frills and fusses,” she told the magazine. “I’ve always gone for the more understated look.”

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Prince Charles, Prince of Wales and Princess Diana, Princess of Wales, wearing a Victor Edelstein dress, meet President Ronald Reagan and First Lady Mrs Nancy Reagan at the White House during an official visit to America on November 09, 1985 in Washington DC, United States.

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Staying true to what she liked, Reagan embraced a signature red color in many of her looks, which became known across the country as "Reagan Red." She opened up about the color to W Magazine, saying: “I always liked red. It’s a picker-upper. I didn’t give it the name of Reagan Red, but that became its name.”

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Princess Diana with Nancy Reagan during a visit to a drug rehabilitation centre in Washington D.C., November 1985.

When Princess Diana visited the U.S. Capitol in 1995, the British royal even adorned her outfit with a red pocket square to compliment Reagan's look while the two visited a drug rehabilitation center.

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Nancy Reagan, decked out in red lace dress & gold earrings & necklace set, at president's dinner (Reagan endorsement of Bush's candidacy).

Her attention to glamour, however, was not without detractors. Reagan drew criticism for her redecoration of the White House, purchase of new china and extravagant entertainment during a recession (the projects, it should be noted, were financed by fundraising). Some critics even went so far as to dub her "Queen Nancy."

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Raisa Gorbachev, wife of Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, and Nancy Reagan attend a welcoming ceremonies for Gorbachev at the White House in Washington, DC.

But Reagan defended her actions by saying she was supporting the fashion industry, and noting that her gowns were often donated to museums. Meanwhile, fans of the first lady praised her for returning elegance to the White House.

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    Nancy smiles with her husband Ronald Reagan as they have their honeymoon dinner at the Stork Club, New York City, 1952. Nancy Reagan died March 6, 2016, at age 94, a spokeswoman for the Reagan Presidential Library and Foundation in Simi Valley, California said.

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    Portrait of American actors Ronald Reagan and Nancy Davis on their wedding day with their arms wrapped around Best Man, American actor William Holden, and Maid of Honor, Phillipine-born actor Brenda Marshall.

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    Future American president Ronald Reagan and his wife Nancy Reagan at a costume party given by Rory Calhoun.

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    Nancy in LA

    Actor Ronald Reagan with wife NancyReagan attend the National Council of Christian and Jews dinner on October 15, 1953 in Los Angeles, California. 

  • Stage and Screen, (Politics) Personalities. USA. pic: May 1957. Voted "Screen Father of the Year" Ronald Reagan with his wife Nancy and daughter Patti. Ronald Reagan (born 1911) became the 40th President of the United States serving 1981-1989.

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    Voted "Screen Father of the Year," this photo shows Ronald Reagan with his wife Nancy and daughter Patti, Ronald Reagan.

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    Nancy and family

    A Family portrait of American actor Nancy Reagan with her husband American actor Ronald Reagan and their daughter Patti Davis and their infant son Ron Jr.

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    Ronald Reagan, Nancy Reagan in the 1950s.

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    1966 California Gubernatorial Republican Primary

    Wife Nancy Reagan, candidate Ronald Reagan celebrating after winning the Republican nomination for California governor on June 7, 1966.

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    Nancy Reagan speaking at Republican National Convention in Superdome New Orleans Louisiana

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    President and Mrs. Ronald Reagan, Rancho del Cielo, California, USA, August 13, 1981.

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    First Lady Nancy Reagan with Gorbachev

    This file photo taken on December 07, 1987 shows Raisa Gorbachev wife of Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, accompanied by US First Lady Nancy Reagan attend a welcoming ceremonies for Gorbachev at the White House in Washington, DC.

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    US President Ronald Reagan waving to the press from the window of his room at Bethesda Naval Hospital with First Lady Nancy Reagan. 

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    Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh with US President Ronald Reagan and his wife Nancy Reagan at the Rancho del Cielo, the President's vacation home in Santa Barbara, during a State Visit to the US, 2nd March 1983. 

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    1981 Ronald Reagan, Nancy Reagan, George H. W. Bush.

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    Meeting Diana

    Prince Charles, Prince of Wales and Princess Diana, Princess of Wales, wearing a Victor Edelstein dress, meet President Ronald Reagan and First Lady Mrs Nancy Reagan at the White House during an official visit to America on November 09, 1985 in Washington DC.

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    Meeting the Queen

    Queen Elizabeth ll, Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, President Ronald Reagan and Nancy Reagan attend a banquet during the Queen's official visit to the US on March 03, 1983 in San Francisco, California.

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    Endorsing George H.W. Bush

    US President Ronald Reagan raises his arms in the air with presidential hopeful George Bush after President Reagan announced endorsement for Bush as the next president of the United States in Washington DC, 05 November 1988. At left, First Lady Nancy Reagan, at right, Barbara Bush. 

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  • President Ronald Reagan, First Lady Nancy Reagan in front of the White House Christmas tree, 1980s

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    First Lady Nancy Reagan in front of the White House Christmas tree, 1980s.

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    Actors Jack Benny, George Burns (1896 - 1996), Frank Sinatra, Nancy Davis Reagan, and her husband Ronald Reagan dressed in formal attire and smiling in the lobby of a hotel.

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    Attending a gala

    Former U.S. President Ronald Reagan and his wife Nancy wave while attending a gala celebrating his 83rd birthday in Washington.

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    Decked out in red lace dress

    Nancy Reagan, decked out in red lace dress & gold earrings & necklace set, at president's dinner.

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As Reagan's style was captured in a Reagan Library exhibit titled "First Lady of Style," the former first lady confessed that she never considered changing her style to

"You have to have your way of doing things," she told W Magazine. "And that's that."

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