Recent outfits hint at Michelle Obama's second-term fashions
BY BOOTH MOORE Los Angeles Times
Tuesday, January 22, 2013
1/22/13 at 7:38 AM
Related Story: Style Scene: Michelle Obama's fashion sense offers lessons to all women
LOS ANGELES - In the past four years, no woman has been a more powerful fashion force than Michelle Obama.
Even after so much time on the public stage, her wardrobe choices still spark trends, drive sales and generate discussion and dissection on blogs and morning TV shows. On her 49th birthday on Thursday, the fact that she was sporting a new hairstyle with bangs heated up the Twitterverse.
The components of the first lady's personal style (pearls, cardigans, kitten heels) are instantly recognizable. Her endorsement of young designers such as Jason Wu, Rodarte, Band of Outsiders, Tracy Reese and Prabal Gurung has helped raise a new generation of American fashion talent. And she has given American women (including those older than 40) permission to dress to impress, to experiment with wearing color and print, to have fun with fashion.
The first family headed out to Monday's inaugural festivities with Michelle Obama leading the way in a navy-silk, checkered-patterned coat and dress by Thom Browne that were inspired by a menswear necktie.
The outfit was specifically designed for Obama, but Browne said he wasn't 100 percent sure she was going to wear it until she came out with it on at the inauguration.
The rest of Obama's Inauguration Day outfit included a belt from J. Crew, necklace by Cathy Waterman and a cardigan by Reed Krakoff, whose ensemble she also wore to Sunday's intimate, indoor swearing-in ceremony.
So if the cliche about a second presidential administration is true - that it is an opportunity to tackle a new agenda without having to worry about re-election - what will the first lady's second "fashion administration" look like, beginning with the second inauguration attire?
"Do I think now that she's in a second term she will go Goth, get tattoos or suddenly start wearing all European designers? No," said Cindi Leive, editor in chief of Glamour magazine, which featured the first lady on the cover in December 2009.
"She's stayed true to her personality in the White House, which is one of the reasons women look up to her," Leive said. "The shapes she wears are consistent, the fitted bodices, fuller skirts and sleeveless tops. Her affinity for color and print has remained consistent. The Michelle Obama you see in 2013 acts and looks a lot like what she looked like on the campaign trail."
Mikki Taylor, author of the 2011 book "Commander-in-Chic: Every Woman's Guide to Managing Her Wardrobe Like a First Lady," and editor at large at Essence magazine, agrees.
"From a practical perspective, she has taught us the importance of defining your dress code, the importance of developing a signature style that works for you," Taylor said. "She put J. Crew on the map. She made cardigans, which she owns in a rainbow of hues, youthful. She made sheath dresses fresh and revived the kitten heel. She's her own role model, and doesn't care to be anybody else's style plate."
Some fashion observers have noticed some subtle changes.
"She's started to streamline her style a lot, which may signal a move away from the whole fashion thing and a move toward trying to emphasize her causes," said Kate Betts, author of the 2011 book "Everyday Icon: Michelle Obama and the Power of Style."
"She's wearing fewer accessories, including belts and bold jewelry, fewer floral prints. She's wearing suits more," Betts said.
In recent months, Obama has emphasized affordable labels over designer pieces, Betts says.
On the campaign trail last fall, for example, she wore dresses by Jones New York and BCBG Max Azria, each of which retailed for less than $300 and all of which were documented on the Mrs-O.org blog, which has registered more than 2.5 million visits each year since starting to chronicle the first lady's style in 2009.
Obama has also been rewearing a lot of pieces, most notably on election night when she chose a magenta silk pintucked dress by Michael Kors that she had worn in 2010.
"She's sending the right message: that it's not really a time to buy a lot of new clothes. So many people are in such trouble economically, and she's in tune with that," Betts said. "And I do think her inaugural gown is going to be something she has worn before."
Taylor predicts Obama's inaugural gown will be "colorful" and "celebratory" and says that Obama has been reworking and repeating pieces all along. "Before anyone started talking about the 'fiscal cliff,' she was teaching us to shop our closet. She's the first presidential wife to successfully work her distinctive pieces in the public eye again and again. She doesn't care if she's worn it before or been photographed in it before. She demonstrates that you can be price-conscious and still look as fabulous as if you have a rock star budget. It's really the antithesis to red-carpet culture."