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Bush twins dress to weather publicity

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George W. Bush's twin daughters were under wraps for most of his presidential campaign, making only two public appearances in the hard-fought primaries.

Even during the Republican National Convention last summer, the young women were seen only briefly, captured on television as they waved proudly from the VIP stand at Philadelphia's First Union Center.

The Bush daughters' limited visibility reportedly was their choice, and their high-profile parents were happy to oblige.

Now, as Inauguration Day looms Saturday, Jenna and Barbara Bush may be preparing even bracing for a coming out of sorts, as four days' worth of public ceremonies will be beamed around the world.

Soon, many Americans will be able to tell the non-identical twins apart as studious Barbara, the brunette, and fun-loving Jenna, the blond, appear front and center when Dad becomes the nation's 43rd president.

Just as mother Laura Bush's inaugural wardrobe was eagerly anticipated by fashion observers, the couple's youthful offspring will make their Washington debut in style. The daughters' ensembles, created by Texas-born and New York-based designer Lela Rose, are certain to be scrutinized in fashion magazines, where the teens' natural good looks make them obvious image magnets for their generation.

"They definitely have the potential of setting trends for their age group and also probably a little bit older," says Mrs. Rose, 31, whose clothes have been worn before by the size-6 Bush daughters.

"They carry themselves very well. They are very mature for 19," Mrs. Rose says. But they also are freshmen in college, she adds, and like many in their age group, "still developing a sense of style."

Expect the press to go gaga over the attractive teen-agers, who are already quite the buzz on one popular Web site devoted to twins. No matter how high their celebrity soars, mum no doubt will be the word from the Bush camp, which so far has tersely declined to elaborate on specifics of their lives.

"You should know better than to ask me a question like that," Bush spokesman Ari Fleischer snapped last summer when a reporter asked about the girls' choices of colleges.

Mr. Bush, early in his campaign, expressed his concerns about Barbara and Jenna amid the harshness of the media glare.

President Clinton's daughter, Chelsea, was afforded a zone of privacy during the bulk of his two terms, which began when she was 12. But all bets are off now that Chelsea no longer is a minor.

The Bushes clearly have been thinking about the fact that their daughters no longer are children but young adults.

"One of my great hesitancies about making this race is I really dont want their lives to be affected by me, and I know its going to be," Mr. Bush told reporters in late 1998.

"I know what its like to be the son of a president," the Texas governor said. "But I dont know what its like to be the son of a president at 18 years old. Im worried about that point."

The Bushes were careful not to use their daughters for publicity during the campaign to protect their privacy, Mrs. Bush said in a joint television interview with her husband that aired Sunday night on NBC's "Dateline. She said she hopes the media will steer clear, she added, granting the Bush daughters the same courtesy afforded to Chelsea Clinton.

"Our girls are not public figures. They're the children of a president," Mrs. Bush said. "There will be the hope that they'll have the opportunity to have privacy. That's what they want, and we want that for them."

Having a grandfather who was president has made Jenna and Barbara "pretty savvy," Mrs. Bush said.

What is on record is this:

Barbara, named after her popular grandmother, former first lady Barbara Bush, is said to be more like her reserved mother, a former school teacher and librarian. Barbara was voted homecoming queen and "most likely to appear in Vogue magazine" by classmates at a public high school in Austin, Texas. She attends her father's alma mater, Yale University.

Jenna, named after Laura Bush's mother, is more outgoing. Her senior class voted her "most likely to trip at the prom." (She didn't.) She attends the University of Texas, where her mother earned an undergraduate degree.

The twins don't look much like each other, and dressing them the same for inaugural events was not a possibility, Mrs. Rose says.

"They both want to stand out a little, to do something quirky and fun and not be too serious," Mrs. Rose says in an interview Friday from her studio in lower Manhattan. "They look and act very, very differently, but their sense of style is not all that different from one another.

"Neither one wants to take themselves too seriously, which is a very refreshing outlook," says the designer, a longtime Bush family friend.

Mrs. Rose, who once worked for designer Richard Tyler, a favorite in Hollywood, adopted a similar attitude in the face of the publicity onslaught surrounding her role.

"I just don't know what to expect, but then again, I live my life that way," she says, revealing a hint of a Texas drawl.

For now, Mrs. Rose's company is small and her office "fun" and "relaxed."

Central to her designs, which she describes as "whimsical," are her selection of lush fabrics. They signal quality, with a hefty price tag. Available at Nordstrom and Neiman Marcus, her suits go for about $1,200.

The outfits to be worn by the Bush daughters who are fairly tall and slim and easy to design for, Mrs. Rose says are "young and modern and sophisticated."

"What was important to both of those girls is that they don't look like what their mother would look like . . . that [their outfits] weren't just suits," she says.

Barbara is set to wear a light pink leather jacket over a black-and-white wool houndstooth sheath dress with matching coat. Jenna will opt for something a tad trendier, stepping out in matching skirt and coat of camel and ivory checks, with a mossy-green cashmere sweater featuring yellow and orange polka dots.

Footwear for both is sexy, chic and like the designer clothing out of the price range of most teens.

Mrs. Rose chose chic, all-the-rage Jimmy Choo pumps and slingbacks in snakeskin. One pair is a light camel-cashmere shade; the other is black.

"We kind of thought Jimmy Choo would be not so what-you-would-think," she says. "They are very classic with a twist."

Cameras and the style posse should watch closely, particularly if the new president and family step out of their limousine to hoof it along the parade route Saturday.

"They are a little bit high," Mrs. Bush says of the Bush girls' shoes, notorious for their slinky, stiletto appeal. "I hope they are not going to walk too far in the parade."

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