First Lady Pat Nixon’s trademark declaration — “People are my project” — is reflected in her no-nonsense yet elegant fashion choices. Whether greeting hundreds of guests at White House State dinners or learning a new dance from children during a trip abroad, Mrs. Nixon’s wardrobe always allowed her personality to shine.
Her sunny nature was famous the world over and softened even the toughest Washington hearts. Veteran UPI reporter Helen Thomas called Mrs. Nixon “the warmest First Lady I covered and the one who people loved most.”
That’s just how “RN” saw “PN.” The name of this first-ever exhibition of 30 of Mrs. Nixon’s gowns and dresses together with some of her favorite accessories was taken from her husband’s own unscheduled eulogy at the Nixon Library following her death in 1993. As he told a crowd of family and friends gathered in the Nixon Library’s lobby, “Above all, when you think of Pat, I hope you will always remember the sunshine of her smile.”
As First Lady, Mrs. Nixon registered achievements both at home and abroad.
She traveled to 78 nations and was the first American First Lady to visit a combat zone (in Vietnam) or to be received as representative of the U.S. Head of State by a foreign nation. Closer to home, she undertook a massive renovation of the White House public rooms and threw the White House open to the public during Christmastime evenings so that more visitors could enjoy the magnificent holiday decorations; indeed, the Candlelight Tours begun by Mrs. Nixon continue to this day as a beloved Washington tradition. And her dedication to promoting volunteerism brought to light the importance of all Americans making a difference in their own communities.
In 1992, the year before her death, Mrs. Nixon was named by Good Housekeeping as one of America’s “Ten Most Admired Women” — for the twenty-second time. The inscription at her Yorba Linda gravesite says it best: “Even when people can’t speak your language, they can tell if you have love in your heart.”
Total exhibit included approximate 30 gowns, day dresses, and casual wear. (60)