VOLUME 28 NO. 4 | JANUARY 17 - JANUARY 23, 2009


Michelle O: A fashion icon for a new generation

Last updated 1-15-09 at 1:39 p.m.

Obama’s 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 that evening.

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 style.

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 View.”

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 of 2008.

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 cardigan.

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 info@nwasianweekly.com.

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