The former First Lady deserves full credit for bringing back this Southern staple.

By Meghan Overdeep
April 18, 2018
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As news of her passing sinks in, we can't help but reflect on Barbara Bush's numerous contributions to the country she loved and served for decades. And the only thing more synonymous with former First Lady than charity is pearls. Pearls, always pearls. Three strands, to be exact.

In fact, Bush once joked that she wore the three-strand necklace so much that if she ever took it off her head would fall off. "The pearls are to cover the wrinkles, which they no longer do," she joked with her granddaughter, Jenna Bush Hager, in 2015 on Today. "You can't wear pearls all over your face."

After wearing them for most of her life, it wasn't until she wore a three-strand necklace of faux pearls with her royal blue inaugural gown in 1989 that Bush became an accidental fashion icon. Millions of women rushed to dust off their own forgotten pearls—and for that, we will be forever grateful.

"The demand is so great, it's as if they just invented the pearl," her jeweler designer, Kenneth Jay Lane Lane, told the Chicago Tribune two months after the inauguration. "I've done pearl necklaces for years and years, but it's Barbara Bush who has sent pearl sales through the ceiling.

In the years that followed, Bush was rarely seen in public without them, helping the iconic accessory to earn the nickname "Barbara Bush Pearls." Along the way, the three strands became a symbol of class, elegance, and Southern civility—three characteristics Bush herself came to embody.

"The last time I checked she had about 10 different pearl necklaces," her deputy press secretary Jean Becker said at the time. "She says she just really likes them. Beyond that there really isn't a reason."

Bush was reportedly tickled by her new status as a style icon.

"Suddenly she is setting all these trends and she kind of gets a kick out of it," her press secretary Becker said at the time. "'She enjoys looking nice and certainly looks her best, but it is not what is most important."

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