Early in the afternoon on Saturday, July 20, 1912, more than 100 Members of the U.S. House of Representatives, all of them Democrats, got off the train in Sea Girt, New Jersey, and walked down the dusty road toward Woodrow Wilson’s summer cottage. Wilson had recently accepted the Democratic presidential nomination, and he’d been entertaining political visits at his seaside home ever since.
Tuxedo? Business suit? Dress up or dress sensibly? It’s not the Oscars . . . it’s the first evening Annual Message. American citizens are accustomed to seeing the President of the United States deliver prime-time addresses to a worldwide audience. However, when presidential night-time addresses were unique events, a previous generation of Members and their spouses were puzzled by what constituted proper fashion protocol at a speech that slowly emerged as a major policy—and social—statement.