Michelle Obama looked stunning at last night’s inaugural balls in a white one-shoulder full-length gown by 26-year-old Tapei-born, New York-based designer Jason Wu. But her choices might not only be based on what looks good on her. In fact, if you read into yesterday’s outfits, Barack and Michelle are very much on the same page when it comes to fashion and politics.
1. Just as Barack Obama’s presidential campaign aimed to invigorate young people and emphasized that their votes counted, Michelle is giving the same sense of purpose to young designers. No longer does a designer need to be an household name to have their designs worn to big-time events, though it helps if they’ve been in the running for the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund endowment like many of the designers she’s worn (Jason Wu, Isabel Toledo, Thakoon).2. President Obama didn’t want to use special interest money to pay for inaugural events and tried to keep lobbyists’ funds at bay. Similarly, at yesterday’s events, Michelle stuck to independent designers who don’t pay for play (advertising) in fashion magazines.
3. While supporting the little guys is the goal, sometimes government, and the First Lady, need to be practical and do what they can on a budget. While Michelle splurged on her clothes and shoes, she wore J.Crew gloves, and her kids both wore coats from the retailer’s Crewcuts line — not Wal-Mart, but still on the budget-friendly side of the scale.
4. President Obama isn’t a typical commander-in-chief (what other recent presidents have had their names chanted at inaugural “neighborhood” balls?), and Michelle doesn’t play by the same rules as other first ladies. Both Obamas are willing to take risks (i.e., Michelle’s sparkly lemongrass outfit on a cold January day).
5. Sure, President Obama is ridiculously well-liked, but not everything he’s going to do these next four years will be perfect. Same with Michelle’s clothes. Some had critical words about her Inauguration Day outfits, but she’s still learning what works and what doesn’t. Do teal patent leather Jimmy Choos work with this outfit? “Where the answer is yes, we intend to move forward.”