Michelle O: A fashion icon for a new generation
Last updated 1-15-09 at 1:39 p.m.
outfit: bead necklace, $38, Banana Republic; sleeveless faux wrap
knit dress in orchid, $59.50, Amazon.com; Michael Kors Astor patchwork
belt, $99, Zappos.com
By Ninette Cheng
Northwest Asian Weekly
When President-elect Barack Obama is sworn into office, all eyes will
be on what first lady Michelle Obama will wear to the inaugural ball
In the past two years of being in the spotlight,
Michelle Obama has first been heralded as something
of a modern Jackie Kennedy and is now recognized as a fashion icon in
her own right. In July 2008, Obama’s confident and bold style earned her the title
of one of Vanity Fair’s “10 Best Dressed.”
A mix of high-low pricing and designers, the use
of local Chicago and American designers such as
Narciso Rodriguez, and use of bright colors and
accessories define Obama’s
Obama’s chic, accessible, and affordable off-the-rack dress choices
have often been praised as being in-tune with the American public and
current economic tone. Her famous $148 White House/Black Market dress
flew off the racks after she wore it in her June 2008 appearance on “The
The white, black, and red striped H&M dress at a Detroit rally may
have also been one of Obama’s most talked-about dresses. The $34.50
dress was accessorized with a black patent belt and is still available
in H&M stores.
While Obama loves her lower-priced styles, she
does favor some local and younger, lesser-known
designers, including Chicago’s Maria Pinto, Jason Wu, and Thakoon.
Thakoon recently launched a GO International line
at Target. Pinto has been the brain behind many
of Obama’s outfits,
including her teal double-faced wool dress and
the purple sheath dress she wore the night Barack
Obama won the Democratic nomination on June 3.
Mrs. O, a blog dedicated to the fashion of Michelle
Obama, named a black and red floral Thakoon number
worn on the final night of the Democratic National
Convention and the purple sheath as Obama’s top two fashion moments
Obama has often been praised for her attention
to detail in her accessories, particularly her
belts, brooches, and oversized pearls. Obama often
cinches her dresses at the waist with belts such
as a caramel buckle belt with her black dress at
Capital University, and black belts with her H&M dress
and purple Maria Pinto sheath. Her brooches are
often jeweled and worn at the neckline of a high
collared dress. Her oversized faux pearls bring
back classic chic but with a modern twist.
Obama is not afraid of showing off colors whether
it is purple, pink, blue, red, or even bright orange.
From her Moschino cantaloupe-colored dress at the
Harold Washington Awards to her red Narciso Rodriguez
sheath at the presidential debates to her pink
tweed suit at the South Carolina primaries, Obama
wears bold colors confidently. The New York Times’ Guy Trubay
wrote that Obama dresses to win and that her purple
color choices are a reference to Camelot.
Narciso Rodriguez’s shocking red and black election night dress
became one of Obama’s most controversial dresses and led to some
mixed reviews. BlackBook Magazine called it a fashion knockout, while
the Mrs. O blog writers said the dress eventually grew on them, and
USA Today reported that 65 percent of voters believed Obama had an “off
day” style-wise. At first glance, the dress’ black criss-cross
down the middle, paired with the black cardigan,
was an odd choice. Unfortunately for Obama, the
dress fared much better on the runway sans the
For the majority of the two-year campaign, Obama
seems to have scored a home run fashionably speaking,
but she earned a questionable score in the mid-term.
However, her (and perhaps, a designer’s)
biggest fashion moment may come on Jan. 20. Women’s Wear Daily
has published sketches from more than 20 designers — from Carolina
Herrera to Marc Jacobs to Reem Acra — in an attempt to speculate.
Every dress to be worn at the inauguration is being
registered online — every
dress but the first lady’s — the one that will surely be
the most closely watched that evening. (end)
Ninette Cheng can be reached at email@example.com.