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First Lady Borrowed and Returned Gowns, Press Secretary Says

October 17, 1988

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Nancy Reagan has borrowed and returned expensive gowns and other clothing used for official functions, but nothing in the government ethics laws required disclosure of these transactions, her press secretary said today.

Responding to a story in the Oct. 24 issue of Time magazine, spokeswoman Elaine Crispen confirmed that the first lady had been lent gowns since 1982. White House lawyers agreed in 1982 that any borrowed dresses should be considered as loans and reported.

″I don’t think the law (Ethics in Government Act of 1978) required for those gowns to be reported,″ Mrs. Crispen said. ″They have all been returned.″

White House spokesman Marlin Fitzwater, asked earlier to comment on the Time report, said that President Reagan was ″very upset about all these attacks″ on the first lady.

Mrs. Reagan’s spokeswoman denied that the first lady had kept any of the numerous dresses and matched outfits loaned to her by designers.

Time said neither the disclosure forms nor Reagan tax returns from 1982 through 1987 listed loans or gifts of dresses to Mrs. Reagan, and Mrs. Crispen did not deny that there had been no such disclosures. She said there had been earlier disclosures, but that it was subsequently decided that they were not required in instances where dresses were returned.

″To a typical woman, there are some gowns that are so spectacular that you would only wear it once,″ she said in a telephone interview. ″Forget to report them? I don’t know. ... I do know that there was no law broken.″

Mrs. Crispen said that there were some disclosures in 1981 because it was decided to list the dresses borrowed, even though officials did not believe it was required, just to allay any doubt about the transactions.

The spokeswoman had said last week that Mrs. Reagan told her she has bought all the clothes she has worn since early 1982, according to the magazine. Today, Mrs. Crispen amended that to say that ″she considers her personal wardrobe to have been bought. There have been things that have been borrowed - and returned - since 1982.″

When asked whether an internal inquiry had been commenced in the White House counsel’s office to determine the validity of the assertions about Mrs. Reagan’s use of clothes, Fitzwater replied, ″No. At this point, I don’t know that there’s any need for one.″

Los Angeles designer David Hayes said Mrs. Reagan has borrowed 60 to 80 made-to-order outfits during the past eight years. She returned more than half and kept the others, he said.

″We think of it as loans. It’s wonderful,″ Hayes told Time. ″She has been a sensation for my business.″

An unidentified executive at Harry Winston jewelers in New York City told Time that Mrs. Reagan continued to borrow expensive accessories, including a pair of diamond earrings worth $800,000.

Mrs. Crispen said today that Mrs. Reagan on two occasions borrowed jewelry from Harry Winston jewelers - for the 1981 presidential inaugural and for the wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana later that year.

Chris Blazakis, who works with designer James Galanos and is writing a book about the Reagans, said he has identified more than 300 photographs since 1982 showing Mrs. Reagan wearing outfits he estimates are worth a total of more than $1 million retail.

In November 1981, Mrs. Reagan disclosed she had been accepting clothing as gifts. On Jan. 14, 1982, she announced that she would consider dresses accepted in 1981 as loans, and would select the best and give them to 13 museums.

According to Time, the museums report that the last such donation was in 1982.

Mrs. Crispen said there have been no such museum donations since then because Mrs. Reagan returned the dresses to the designers.

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