First Lady Michelle Obama fashions didn't disappoint


Michelle Obama, Barack Obama
Michelle Obama, Barack Obama

President Barack Obama, left, and first lady Michelle Obama arrive at the Western Ball in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 21, 2009.

Pablo Monsavais/The Associated Press
Published: Wednesday, January 21, 2009 at 2:57 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 21, 2009 at 2:57 p.m.

For the fashion world, Inauguration Day seemed to bring on the giddy excitement and nail-biting anticipation usually reserved for prime events like New York Fashion Week, Oscar night and the Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute Gala.

And, in true form, First Lady Michelle Obama gave the style scribes and critics exactly what they craved — lots to talk about.

The exclamation point to Obama's inauguration fashions came in the form of an elegant, Grecian-style ivory gown designed by Taiwan-born Jason Wu. The choice was surprising in that Wu is virtually a newcomer to most, but kept in step with Obama's penchant of wearing clothes by U.S. designers with ethnic backgrounds who are well-known in fashion circles but are not household names. (Her daytime inauguration outfit was created by Cuban-born designer Isabel Toledo, and Sunday's looks at the wreath laying ceremony and We Are One inauguration concert were courtesy of Narciso Rodriguez.)

The one-shouldered, silk chiffon gown — dotted with organza floral applique and Swarovski crystals — was an unexpected choice for the statuesque mother and wife. She opted for a low-key color instead of her usual vibrant, jewel tones. Instead of a sleek, form-fitting silhouette many predicted, she chose a dress with a flowy, full skirt that some deemed as "fluffy" and unflattering to her curvy shape. Wu, 26, told the New York Times, he "loved the fantasy quality" of the gown.

I thought the gown was beautiful, appropriate and memorable. Her choice of noticeable, but not flashy accessories complimented the look. However, the length and train was not the best choice for an evening filled with lots of dancing and walking. Either an alteration to the hem or higher heels were in order.

In 2008, Wu received Fashion Group International's Rising Star Award and was a prestigious CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund nominee. For the Barbara Walters interview last November, Obama also wore a Wu creation — a white sheath dress speckled with black rosettes.

Obama's first inauguration outfit by Toledo garnered mostly high praise from the media and fashion experts. Washington Post's Pultizer Prize-winning fashion writer Robin Givhan said the lemongrass yellow sheath dress and matching coat made "her look exceptional and vaguely regal." It was constructed of intricate lace over wool and the coat had a pashmina lining for warmth. However, the heavy texture drew some comparisons to bedspreads and window treatments. On Huffingtonpost.com, Kelli Delaney, designer for Members Only, said, "it looked like heavy curtain fabric and reminded me of the 'Sound of Music' when Julie Andrews cut down the brocade drapes and made them into dresses."

Obama's color choice was symbolic and on trend: Yellow symbolizes hope and optimism and the hue was recently christened the "it" color for spring. For a jolt of unexpected color, she completed the outfit with olive green, leather J. Crew gloves and green patent leather kitten heel pumps by Jimmy Choo — another example of how she blends designer brands with affordable fashions.

The ensemble had a sophisticated, vintage feel, but also treaded on the conservative side. The bejeweled diamanté neckline had some question whether the sparkle was too much for the occasion and time of day.

Whether she's the First Lady of Fashion or Flops, Obama always succeeds in creating fashion buzz. Tuesday proved what many have noticed during the lengthy campaign — the new First Lady isn't traditional in any sense and her independent and unpredictable style will keep everyone guessing.

Regardless, her husband approves.

President Barack Obama proudly said at their first inauguration ball appearance, "First of all, how good looking is my wife?"

Lashonda Stinson Curry can be reached at lashonda.stinson@gvillesun.com or 374-5038.

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