One thing so many love about Michelle Obama’s wardrobe is her tendency to bring attention to the little guys—her 2009 inaugural debut in a dazzling Jason Wu chiffon gown catapulted the otherwise unknown designer to fame, earning him multiple A-list clients and a collaboration with Target, among other feats.
So when Women’s Wear Daily published an alleged shortlist of designers for the First Lady’s second inaugural ballgown, we were so excited to see younger names—Prabal Gurung and Thakoon, to name a couple—in the running alongside top labels like Marchesa and Narciso Rodriguez. Cue our ultra-high hopes for an equally mind-blowing jewel-toned gown that would expose the stellar talents of the lesser known, and, much like Michelle’s amazing Thom Browne coat at the morning’s inauguration ceremony, surpass that of 2009.
But we were, dare we say, not all that impressed by the First Lady’s choice this time around. We’d been talking about Michelle’s appearance at the ball for days, but with a repeated designer and a comparatively simple overall look, the monumental reveal wasn’t nearly as exciting as we’d anticipated.
While there’s no doubting the dress—a custom-made chiffon and velvet gown by Jason Wu—was perfectly beautiful, and its shimmering velvet details spectacular (word is that Wu recruited jewelry designer Kimberly McDonald to help craft the keyhole neckline with real diamonds), we can’t say its single tone and relatively simple silhouette outdid the one-sleeved stunner of inauguration number one. As a whole, we expected more.
We’re not the only ones: Washington-based fashion critic Robin Givhan mentioned on CNN Monday night that she’s “gobsmacked” by the First Lady’s choice, noting that she usually “spreads the love around” when it comes to choosing designers and made a “safe choice, because there’s so much pressure on the inaugural gown to be this iconic dress.”
Though she didn’t wow us with her gown, Michelle Obama succeeded in making a bold statement—not unlike her husband’s tone in the inauguration speech just hours earlier—that she’s found what she likes and, for better or worse, she’s sticking to it. Props to her. And even more props to second-time winner Jason Wu.