The Story of Tricia Nixon's Wedding Dress in 1971 – Town & Country
Ahead of Naomi Biden’s upcoming nuptials at the White House this weekend, take a look back at fashion of the last White House wedding in 1971.
President Joe Biden’s granddaughter,
Naomi Biden, is set to wed her fiancé Peter Neal at the White House this weekend. The last wedding at the White House took place in 1971, when President Richard Nixon’s daughter Tricia married Edward Finch Cox. To celebrate Naomi’s upcoming nuptials, T&C is looking back at Tricia’s wedding dress.
The gown was designed by Priscilla Kidder, of Priscilla of Boston bridal salon. Kidder, also notably designed the gowns for Grace Kelly’s bridesmaids for her royal wedding to Prince Rainier in 1956. In 1966, she designed Luci Baines Johnson’s dress (President Lyndon B. Johnson’s daughter) for her White House wedding reception, and in 1968, she dressed Tricia’s older sister, Julie Nixon, for her wedding to Dwight "David" Eisenhower II, the grandson of former president Dwight D. Eisenhower.
From her experience dressing First Daughters, Kidder was a natural choice for Nixon’s dress, but the choice of a sleeveless gown was a controversial one at the time; according to the New York Times, it was "considered unusually revealing for that decade." Kidder was described at the time as "the queen of Alencon lace, illusion silk and detachable trains."
Writing for the Richard Nixon Foundation, historian Jennifer Boswell Pickens explains, "Kidder took many precautions to protect the design of the bride’s dress. Tricia recalls after seeing the original sketches she shared with Priscilla that her favorite period of fashion was more of the Edwardian style and that she preferred something simpler. The two had a close working relationship for Priscilla had even created her debutante gown years earlier, along with many of her mother’s, the First Lady’s ensembles."
Pickens continues, "Priscilla flew from Boston with the wedding gown in her own suitcase where she would strap it into a first-class seat beside her for a fitting. (Reportedly the airline was going to charge her half fare for the case, but when Priscilla told them that Luci Johnson’s gown had flown for free the airline succumbed). The end result was a perfect gown for the bride."
Kidder also designed dresses for the bridesmaids and the mother of the bride.
On her wedding day, Tricia incorporated the traditional something old, something new, something borrowed, and something blue. Her "something old" was her engagement ring, which belonged to Cox’s grandmother, her "something new" was the dress, her "something borrowed" was her sister’s diamond and pearl drop earrings, and her "something blue" was an inscription inside her dress in blue thread, which read "Gown by Priscilla of Boston for the White House marriage of Tricia Nixon to Edward Finch Cox, June 12, 1971."
A memo released by the White House at the time gives the full details of Tricia’s gown, describing it as "silk organdy appliqued with Alencon lace and embroidered lilies of the valley over silk crepe":
White House weddings are somewhat akin to America’s equivalent of a royal wedding; incidentally, Tricia Cox nearly dated Prince Charles. The now King Charles recalled in 2015 that during his first visit to the U.S. in 1970, "they were trying to marry me off to Tricia Nixon." The two danced at the White House, and Tricia told reporters that the Prince of Wales is an "excellent dancer," and that the White House "is going to seem empty without them."
Yet, it was not a match, and Tricia married law student Edward Finch Cox a year later.
Emily Burack (she/her) is the news writer for Town & Country, where she covers entertainment, culture, the royals, and a range of other subjects. Before joining T&C, she was the deputy managing editor at Hey Alma, a Jewish culture site. Follow her @emburack on Twitter and Instagram.
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