As five-figure estimates of Nancy Reagan's inaugural wardrobe were bandied about this week, Mrs. Reagan borrowed a quote from a former First Lady she admires.
"If I spent that much on my clothes, I'd have to wear sable underwear," Mrs. Reagan said through her press secretary, Sheila Tate. (That was a statement first made by Jacqueline Kennedy in 1961.)
The Associated Press estimated the cost of her Bill Blass and James Galanos gowns and her other designer dress outfits for the four-day festivities at $10,000, while the Washington Post's fashion writer, Nina Hyde, took a guess at $25,000, and, after Mrs. Reagan called that figure "ridiculous," Hyde upped the figure to a possible $46,000, not including shoes and handbags.
The estimates were based on what an ordinary person (with $40,000 to spend on clothes for a weekend) might pay for the outfits, and Mrs. Reagan as a preferred customer is probably not paying that kind of price. Whatever she is paying, she isn't saying.
"It's part of her private wardrobe, a private expense," said Tate, who announced her resignation this week to join a private public relations firm. "She doesn't say how much she spends on food or dry cleaning. There are a few things they manage to keep to themselves."
Mrs. Reagan will not be donating any of these inaugural gowns to the Smithsonian's First Ladies' Dresses exhibit, where her last inaugural gown is.
"It is not traditional to donate gowns from a second inaugural," said Tate. "We checked to see what Mrs. Nixon and Mrs. Eisenhower had done, and neither of them had donated gowns from their second inaugurals."
WHITE INAUGURAL: Just in time for the inaugural, the biggest snowstorm of the season coated Washington in more than three inches of snow, with the weekend forecast for temperatures in the 20s and 30s and a possibility of more snow. The 50,000 visitors streaming in will have to spend lots of time outdoors if they want to see the major events, such as today's opening ceremonies and fireworks on the White House Elipse and a youth concert at the Jefferson Memorial. Maybe it will warm up for Monday's big parade.
NO TIME FOR FRANK: Carolyn Deaver, the wife of departing White House Deputy Chief of Staff Michael Deaver, passed up the hottest inaugural party in town--a black-tie dinner dance with Frank Sinatra and Reagan's kitchen cabinet at the Italian Embassy--in favor of a birthday party with friends in Georgetown.
UNPOPULAR PARTY: Ursula Meese, the wife of White House counselor Edwin Meese, found herself entangled in an inaugural controversy when the Capitol Children's Museum, where she is a board member, reneged on a contract and told the liberal Americans for Democratic Action that they could not hold their "Other Inaugural" party there after all. The ADA had already spent more than $5,000 on invitations and other preparations. The reasons given by the museum were that it doesn't get involved in political functions (which the ADA disputes), and also that it might embarrass the Republican women on the board. The implication seemed to be that Mrs. Meese and perhaps Jane Weinberger, wife of the defense secretary, had put a stop to the party, featuring several prominent Democrats.
Asked if she would have been embarrassed by the party, Mrs. Meese said, "Absolutely not.
"In fact, the chairman of our board is a leading fund-raiser for the Democrats. I didn't even know about it until I read about it in the paper.
"I think that may be something ADA is using for an excuse. From what I understand, they misrepresented the party as being just a family and staff party for their club members."
The museum offered to pay the more than $1,000 rental difference to move the ADA party to the Wax Museum, where presumably, no one is capable of voicing a complaint.
MINORITY GALAS: When the National Black Republican Council Party throws its gala ball Saturday night, it will be the first time a black Republican organization has sponsored an inaugural event. Jeffrey Osborne and Joyce Kennedy will entertain. Other black celebrities in town to salute the President include Larry Holmes, Ken Norton, Sammy Davis Jr., Willie Mays, Jim Brown and Joe Frazier. There will also be a black-tie Latino gala Saturday night, thrown by the Hispanic Advisory Committee for the 50th inaugural.
DON'T CALL THEM CHAUFFEURS: Because "there are lots of transportation requirements for a thing like this, as you might imagine," 540 military drivers have been drafted to ferry VIPs around snowbound Washington during the crush of Inaugural Week, explained Inaugural Committee spokesman Mike Dickerson. He added that the use of these military personnel provides a giant saving to the taxpayer, "since we're already paying their salaries, anyway." The drivers navigate vehicles provided by America's big four car manufacturers and fueled by gasoline provided by, you guessed it, the gasoline industry.
Who is eligible for the services of these military-driving-school-trained dispatchers, as the Inaugural Committee prefers to think of them? Anybody on the presidential Inaugural Committee, Dickerson said, the folks from the Armed Forces Inaugural Committee, all the governors from around the country and, oh yes, the first and second families.
P.S.: "We're not driving any entertainers," Dickerson stressed.
JIMMY PITCHES IN: About $100,000 of the $12 million spent on the inaugural will come from Jimmy Carter, or from the Jimmy Carter Inaugural Trust, to be exact. The Carters did not spend all the money raised for the 1977 inaugural, so the surplus was placed in a trust to help finance future inaugurations, be they Democrat or Republican.
OFFICIAL BUBBLY: Korbel Champagne of Guerneville, Calif., has been selected as the exclusive champagne for the inaugural. Bottles bearing the inaugural seal and trucked into Washington will be served at the eight black-tie inaugural balls Monday night.
FOOD GALORE: Lawry's Prime Rib will be among the 50 top restaurants offering samples of their cooking at cut-rate prices in the popular Taste of America event over the weekend. Other California restaurants participating include the Sardine Factory of Monterey, Paolo's of San Jose and the Imperial Palace of San Francisco.