The belle of the Inaugural Ball

By on January 28, 2009
Tara McMahon

After months of speculation, fashion lovers anxiously awaited the arrival of First Lady Michelle Obama at the inauguration of her husband, President Barack Obama.

With her style notably transforming from a professional working mother to a softer female elegance, Michelle Obama has become the epitome of femininity and a rising style icon in the fashion industry.

Adorning the covers of popular women’s magazines and gracing the nation side by side with her husband, Michelle’s sleek and chic fashion choices have captured the eyes of everyone she encounters. As respected celebrities and working women alike follow and mirror her stately female elegance, each ensemble becomes a harbinger for the selections yet to come.

While the president’s inaugural address commanded all ears, it was inevitable that Michelle Obama’s inaugural dress selection would command all eyes. The crowd stood in admiration as the First Lady entered wearing a stunning embellished lemongrass sheath dress and matching coat by Cuban designer Isabel Toledo. Not stopping the flare there, she completed the look with pea green leather gloves from J. Crew and bright green ‘Glacier’ kitten pumps from Jimmy Choo.
Echoing President Obama’s speech, Michelle Obama’s designer choices embodied multiculturalism and gave flight to the careers of young talent and small business owners. Toledo, a Cuban-born American designer, is admired in the mainstream fashion industry for her unique architectural craftsmanship and geometric patterns that eloquently detail each garment she designs.

“Isabel was very cognizant of two things when she designed this outfit” revealed a close friend of Toledo’s when speaking with Life & Style Weekly of the artistic motivation from “behind the seams.”

“She knew all eyes would be on Michelle. And she knew that it would be very cold out. So she designed something that was very sophisticated and very warm,” the friend said in the magazine. “The upper part of the coat and the back of the sleeve were all lined with a pashmina lining for extra warmth around the torso. The fabric and color are also very sophisticated. There’s an intricate layering of lace over wool. And Isabel calls the color lemongrass, which I think is so elegant.”

First Daughters Sasha and Malia also stood out as their father took the presidential oath, wearing vibrant hues of blue and pink. The girls were paired in wool coats with a ribbon accenting the waist designed by Crew cuts, a kid’s line from J. Crew, accompanied by matching scarves and gloves.

The older daughter, 10-year old Malia, was polished in a double-breasted periwinkle blue coat with a black faux-fur scarf, while her younger sister, 7-year old Sasha, dressed innocently in a pink coat and orange scarf.

With a satisfying taste of Michelle Obama’s inaugural day selection, viewers anticipated the first lady’s costume change to come for the 10 scheduled inaugural balls.
“First of all, how good looking is my wife?” President Obama asked the crowd of applauding celebrities and campaign supporters.

As expected, the First Lady swept viewers off their feet like a virtuous belle of the ball as she shimmered in a white, one-shouldered, floor length, silk chiffon gown custom-designed by the 26 year old up-and-coming designer, Jason Wu.

Reportedly worth $3500, the gown was embellished from top to bottom in Swarovski crystals, silver thread embroidery and chic floral detailing.

With Michelle Obama’s first designer choice being one who embraces the quest for the American Dream, it is no coincidence that she chose little-known fashion designer Wu as the mastermind of her inaugural ball gown.

Wu, a Taipei-born designer and a Parson’s graduate, has been designing for a few years, beginning as an intern for Narciso Rodriguez and just recently launching his own line in 2006.

Teen Vogue was able to catch up with this young rising fashion designer to talk about his custom designed gown for First Lady Michelle Obama.

“In terms of design, my only instruction was that the dress needed to sparkle, which I hope it did,” Wu saidin the article. “It had about a million Swarovski crystals on it! I know it sounds corny, but I had this vision of the dress immediately. I knew it had to be white. I wanted it to be romantic, strong, energetic –everything Michelle Obama stands for.”

As Michelle Obama prepares to take on the role as First Lady of the White House, fashion fans worldwide are anticipating the ensembles that have yet to come. With the color, fit and style of past wardrobes receiving exceptional reviews from fashion pundits, Michelle Obama’s fresh perspective and style sense has many women following in her footsteps. One thing is for sure–the presidential office never looked so good.


About Chavon Webster