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The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute recently
brought The Heart Truth campaign's red dress symbol to life at
the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts with the debut
of a new exhibit — The First Ladies Red Dress Collection.
Unveiled during National Women's Health Week, the historic exhibit
featured red gowns, suits and dresses lent by Mrs. Laura Bush and
six former First Ladies, who have joined The Heart Truth to raise
awareness about women's heart disease. The Red Dress is the national
symbol for women and heart disease awareness and the centerpiece
of NHLBI's campaign to raise awareness of the number 1 killer of
||First Lady Laura Bush unveils Red Dress
More than 200 guests attended the unveiling, including NIH director
Dr. Elias Zerhouni, Jacalyn Leavitt, wife of HHS Secretary Michael
Leavitt; Alma Powell, wife of former Secretary of State Colin Powell;
Joyce Rumsfeld, wife of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld; Karyn
Frist, wife of Sen. Bill Frist; Mary Bunning, wife of Sen. Jim
Bunning; Debbie Dingell, wife of Rep. John Dingell; Jan Donaldson,
wife of former ABC News anchor Sam Donaldson; and Kathleen Matthews,
news anchor for WJLA ABC 7.
Opening the event was NHLBI director Dr. Elizabeth Nabel, who
introduced the exhibit video. The video featured a montage of images
of each of the First Ladies in red outfits, a clip of Mrs. Bush
speaking about heart disease, a selection of facts about heart
disease, watercolor paintings and photographs of Washington, D.C.,
landmarks, and slow motion clips from the Red Dress Collection
2005 Fashion Show.
Kennedy Center President Michael Kaiser welcomed participants
and expressed the center's pride in joining America's First Ladies
and NHLBI in the fight against heart disease with a fashionable
exhibit of awareness. Secretary Leavitt spoke of the importance
of reaching women with critical messages on how to protect their
heart health. "Only 20 percent of American women know that heart
disease is the greatest single threat to their lives. So if you
haven't done so already, go see your doctor and get an assessment
for your risk of heart disease. Take your sister, mother, daughter
or friend with you," said Leavitt.
Mrs. Bush, ambassador for The Heart Truth campaign, took the stage
to unveil the First Ladies Red Dress Collection. She urged all
women to know The Heart Truth — heart disease is the leading
cause of death among American women — and to get started
on the road to better heart health. "When it comes to heart disease,
education and prevention can save lives. This collection is the
First Ladies' effort to remind women about heart health," said
|Nancy Reagan (l) shares a light moment with
Laura Bush at the unveiling of the First Ladies Red Dress Collection.
For the exhibit, Mrs. Bush provided her red Carolina Herrera suit,
which she wore to the Bolshoi Theater in Moscow and to The Heart
Truth's Red Dress Collection Fashion Show 2005 in New York City.
Joining Mrs. Bush to unveil the exhibit was a special guest — Nancy
Reagan. Her love of the color red is well known, and she often
wore beautiful red gowns to White House and other noteworthy events
during her tenure as First Lady. Reagan donated a red lace Oscar
de la Renta evening gown, which she wore when President Reagan
was presented with the Order of the Bath by Queen Elizabeth II
in London in 1989.
|The dresses in the collection adorn mannequins
in the First Ladies exhibit.
The exhibit also featured red outfits from five other First Ladies.
Sen. Hillary Clinton provided a mock turtleneck dress designed
by Cliff Chally, worn to one of President Clinton's major speeches
to a joint session of Congress in 1993 and that same year on Valentine's
Day. Barbara Bush chose a red evening gown with gold floral overlay
by designer Arnold Scassi that she wore while hosting a White House
state dinner for the president of the Republic of Argentina in
1991. One of her famous strands of pearls was also displayed with
A double-breasted Lady Bowden suit was worn frequently by Rosalyn
Carter during President Carter's days in the White House. Betty
Ford provided one of her favorites — a red crepe Neiman Marcus
suit that she wore many times during her husband's presidency.
Lady Bird Johnson contributed a red evening gown, designed exclusively
for her by Mary McFadden to wear at her 80th birthday celebration
at the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum.
|NHLBI director Dr. Elizabeth Nabel describes The
Heart Truth campaign to guests at
|HHS Secretary Michael Leavitt urges members of the audience to “take your sister,
mother, daughter or friend” to the doctor for a heart disease checkup.
Accompanying the dresses was a photograph of each First Lady wearing
the outfit on display and a personally signed letter supporting
The Heart Truth. The exhibit also featured 11 designer dresses
from the Red Dress Collection 2005.
The First Ladies Red Dress Collection remained on display on the
Millennium Stage in the Grand Foyer of the Kennedy Center (which
averages approximately 10,000 visitors every day) until the end
of May. More information about The Heart Truth and the First Ladies
Red Dress Collection can be found at www.hearttruth.gov.
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