Nancy Reagan in her “Second-Hand Clothes” disguise for the Gridiron Club on March 27, 1982.
At the annual Gridiron Club dinner, the First Lady decided to use the platform to poke fun at herself in response to the criticism that she accepted free clothes and ordered new china. Usually the event was traditionally used to lampoon politicians or the media. In the middle of the white-tie event, the First Lady went backstage to change. In front of 600 guests and her unassuming presidential husband, the First Lady came back wearing yellow rubber boats, blue-flowered Hawaiian skirt, red print blouse, long fake pearls, a white feather boa, and a plumed hat. All the items were borrowed or were given to her as joke gifts for her birthday.
The First Lady appeared after a skit that accused her of paying too much attention to clothes and finery and not enough on her budget. Peeking out of a rack of clothing, she burst into song. The song was in the tune of “Second-hand Rose:”
I’m wearing secondhand clothes
They’re all the thing in spring fashion shows
Even my new trench coat with fur collar
Ronnie bought for 10 cents on the dollar
The china is the only thing that’s new
Even though they tell me that I’m no longer queen
Did Ronnie have to buy me that new sewing machine
Secondhand clothes, secondhand clothes
I sure hope Ed Messe sews.
Santini, Maureen. “Surprise Performance at Gridiron Club: First Lady Pokes Fun at Self.” Toledo Blade, April 1, 1982.