When Barack Obama was sworn in as the 44th president of the United States in front of the biggest crowd ever assembled for the ceremony, his wife was by his side as is the tradition. She made a strong fashion statement in a lemongrass green coat and dress of sparkling Swiss wool lace. The role of America's first lady is not an official governmental position but she has become increasingly important as media coverage in our society becomes more and more intense. Michelle Obama is in the spotlight and it becomes her.
As the first African-American first lady in history, she garnered more attention than any previous candidate's wife. She is a modern woman. Born in 1964, she grew up on Chicago's South Side. Her brilliant mind is backed up by a superb education at Princeton University and Harvard Law School. She is a true helpmate to her husband whom she wed in 1992, and after the births of her daughters, Malia and Sasha, she successfully juggled motherhood and a career.
Michelle Obama is not a frivolous fashionista. Fashion has a place in her life but it is not a ruling passion. She is, first and foremost, a wife and mother. However, as she hit the campaign trail that ended in a triumphant win, Michelle Obama became a fashion icon, like it or not. Every detail was avidly reported; her fondness for color, for prints, for interesting jewelry. Now that she is regarded as a celebrity, her fashion choices come under intense scrutiny. Her own personal style sets her apart from every other first lady.
Her looks warrant attention. She is striking rather than pretty and tall enough to be a high fashion model (5'11"). It is obvious that she enjoys fashion and like most women of her generation, she dresses for her busy lifestyle in looks that range from comfortable casual wear to elegant evening looks. Very importantly, she actually buys affordable clothes from places like The Gap and J. Crew as well as patronizing up and coming high fashion designers. A Democrat, she dresses democratically.
In her role as first lady, Michelle Obama is a figurehead and as other presidential wives in the past, she will spearhead meaningful and worthwhile causes during her years in the White House. Her influence is important to the fashion industry, a key economic sector. First ladies have set trends in the past. Dolley Madison was a fashion plate in her day but it is more recent first ladies whose personal style has made news and often moved merchandise. Nancy Reagan's penchant for bright red and Barbara Bush's famous pearls were widely copied. Of course, it was Jackie Kennedy who made the greatest impact. Her pillbox hat, bouffant hair and her chic Oleg Cassini wardrobe (influenced by Parisian Givenchy), inspired women to emulate her elegant style. It is inevitable that Michelle Obama is being compared to Jackie. Both youthful, both mothers of young children in the White House, both well educated and highly cultured. But fashion was a consuming pursuit for Mrs. Kennedy. It is not so for Mrs. Obama. However, she has obviously realized that she has the power to promote American fashion and American designers. The fact that she wore designs by Narciso Rodriguez, Isabel Toledo and Jason Wu during the Inauguration celebrations put those talents on the map with mainstream awareness. It is said that she was aided in her choices by Ikram Goldman who owns a trendy boutique in Chicago.
The media is busy making Michelle Obama into a fashion celebrity. She has twice already made Vanity Fair's "Best Dressed List." Time magazine called her "America's Next Top Model" and quoted designer Thakoon Panichgul saying, "She is someone with authority and style that people can look up to... real and confident." In The New York Times, Bloomingdale's Fashion Director commented, "She dresses like taste doesn't necessarily have to do with brand or status... very refreshing and appropriate for this period." Vogue detailed her style and included a statement from Mrs. Obama's Chicago couturier, Maria Pinto, who said, "Style aside, it is her wit and intellect that make her an extraordinary first lady." When she appeared on the cover (March 2009), the first lady told Vogue, "I love clothes. First and foremost, I wear what I love." This author's comment, widely circulated from MSNBC to China's leading newspaper, sums up the first lady's appeal, "Michelle Obama is more real than iconic."
America's first lady, Michelle Obama . . . a woman with a sure sense of style that comes from a solid sense of self.
“Michelle First Lady, Paper Dolls is now available. The colorful book features two 10-inch dolls on the patriotic red-white-and-blue covers along with a portrait of the President and the first daughters. Eight pages of clothes to cut out and dress the Michelle dolls include more than twenty outfits.
The paper doll book is fun for collectors of all ages and also offers an historic view of how Michelle Obama became America’s favorite fashion icon during the Presidential campaign and inauguration. Every outfit in the book was actually worn by Mrs. Obama. Especially noteworthy is the inclusion of the newsmaking J.Crew skirt and sweater worn on the Jay Leno “Tonight show and the black and white print dress worn on “The View. Of course, the highly publicized fashions worn during the Inauguration ceremonies are given pride of place in the book’s center spread. There is the Isabel Toledo lemongrass Swiss lace coat ensemble, the Narcisco Rodriguez outfit worn at the concert and of course, the ivory floral/crystal ball gown destined for the Smithsonian. The beautiful bridal gown worn for the Obama’s 1992 wedding is also included in the beautifully illustrated book.
David Wolfe, who created the book for Paperdollywood, is an acknowledged fashion authority as well as an artist and his fashion essay in the book, analyzes the “newly fashioned first lady. In the essay Mr. Wolfe notes that Newsweek heralded Mrs. Obama as “America’s Next Top Model. Now, with the publication of “Michelle First Lady, she is also America’s New Paper Doll!Michelle, First Lady - Paper Doll, $14.00
Available from paperdollreview.com