The American fashion industry Monday awarded its top honor to first lady Nancy Reagan in a tribute to her eight years as the most prominent model for American fashion designers.

Television journalist Barbara Walters presented Reagan the Lifetime Achievement Award for Outstanding Contribution to American Fashion at a gala ceremony at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.Walters noted the first lady represented our country "with personal style and consummate elegance."

Walters derided critics of Reagan's practice of borrowing clothes from famous designers, saying the first lady helped the fashion industry by promoting American garments.

The award, voted by the Council of Fashion Designers of America, is considered the fashion industry's equivalent to the movie industry's Oscar awards.