For the past four years, U.S. first lady Michelle Obama has made a habit of ceding some of her spotlight to bright young American designers. Whose work would she choose to show off at President Barack Obama's second inauguration?
The answer had style hounds feeling a little bit of déjà Wu (Jason, that is). Wu was a little-known rising star when the First Lady tapped him to dress her for the 2009 inauguration; by the time he created Obama's high-necked red gown for last week's ball, he'd become a household name, with a diffusion line (Miss Wu), a Target collaboration, and even a scented candle on his resume.
Major occasions - and showstopping gowns - aside, Mrs. Obama has been one to watch over the past four years for her day-to-day style. She's a master of dressing for her shape (fit-and-flare dresses that show off those famous arms are her signature), and always looks event-appropriate without shying away from colour or pattern. It's a style the average woman can easily emulate: Though she may be sporting a Diane von Furstenberg sundress one day, she's going for pieces from J. Crew or Gap - even Target - the next.
Though you may not be spending your day waving to a massive crowd, the First Lady's picks for major events can be easily translated into your day-to-day wardrobe. Remember, when in doubt: Grab a pencil skirt, a cardigan, and a great belt, and the world's your White House.
Designer Reed Krakoff was behind the subdued-yet-glamorous ensemble Obama chose for the swearing-in ceremony: A printed royal blue dress with a subtle sheen and a cropped navy cardigan. The mix of textures - thick wool with a shimmering dress - gives depth to a tone-on-tone look.
It's not often that a coat steals the thunder from the rest of an outfit, but the Thom Browne collarless jacket Obama wore on inauguration day was as much of a talker as Wu's gown. The designer reportedly crafted the seamed, structured coat from a silk jacquard he based off of a necktie silk pattern. The look was finished off with a jewelled J. Crew belt and oxblood leather gloves - a nod to fashion's new favourite neutral. Though a jeweled or beaded sash might be tougher to work everyday, the lesson here is clear: Don't be afraid to throw a belt on over that coat. Live a little!
At the inaugural reception, Obama chose a pitch-perfect update on the LBD: A demurely A-lined Michael Kors dress covered in glittering black sequins. The First Lady doesn't often choose black, but this look is anything but basic.
Obama caused a stir at the Democratic National Convention when she delivered her speech wearing a pink-and-grey brocade dress by designer Tracy Reese. The dress itself - for which Reese was immediately flooded with orders - is still up for sale at Reese's website at tracyreese.com for $398, and a shorter version is at anthropologie.com for the same price.
In one of the most iconic photos of the 2012 campaign, the Obamas embraced at a campaign stop in Iowa. That checked dress the First Lady's wearing? It's from British e-tailer ASOS, where the on-trend wares rarely top $150 (the dress in question sold for about $86). It's long gone from the site, but the windowpane check pattern is a rising trend; though Michelle's dress skewed a little more casual cookout-chic, straight, graphic lines are the order of the day.