News & Politics

Swooning Over Michelle’s Every Look—and Curve

While expectations are sky-high for her husband, Barack Obama—his first 100 days, boosters seem to say, will solve all the world’s problems—another set of expectations may be even higher: that First Lady Michelle Obama will reinvent American fashion in a way not seen since Jackie Kennedy.

Vogue called her fashion’s new “It Girl.” As for Michelle’s own fashion sense? As she told one interviewer, “I’m just a tomboy who likes to look pretty.”

Now that she’s in the White House, people will examine even more closely how she chooses her outfits. What has been the reaction to her campaign-trail attire? For the most part, adoring—the only question in most fashion critics’ minds seems to be whether she can out-icon French first lady Carla Bruni-Sarkozy. Here’s a sample of the reviews.

Michelle’s $148 Donna Ricco dress from White House/Black Market that she wore on The View in June:

“How incredibly refreshing to see an intelligent, articulate woman who shops for herself, doesn’t use a stylist, and doesn’t think a designer name means she’s better dressed than someone else.”—The Dish Rag blog on

“Yes, we know Michelle Obama is a full-fledged, Harvard-educated Woman of Substance. But now we also know she can use fashion in a way that disarms, makes subtle statements, and even shows off upper arms to die for.”—Celeb blog The Insider

Dress from J.Crew worn on The Tonight Show in October:

“Michelle Obama: She’s just like us!”—Fashion blog Jezebel

“A slight upgrade from H&M but still affordable. And festive!”—The Cut blog on

Dress from Maria Pinto worn when she spoke at the Democratic National Convention in August:

“The BLUE DRESS. Didn’t the Democrats have a problem with this before?”—The Deal Divas blog on

“The bottom line: demure and lady-like. Not exactly a wow moment for fashionistas, but appropriate for the occasion.”—Rocky Mountain News

Narciso Rodriguez dress worn to the Grant Park Election Night celebration:

“Her choice . . . is all the proof we need that changeis coming to the White House master closet.”—Philadelphia Inquirer

“Let’s just to the bottom line here. Yes, MO has hips. And no, that black and red Narciso Rodriguez dress from election night was not the best choice for the circumstances.”—Robin Givhan, Washington Post

Purple Maria Pinto dress worn the night of the convention “fist bump”:

“The color . . . seemed symbolically rich, even if its message may have been so subtle as to be subliminal.”—New York Times

“It is no exaggeration to say that this dress caused near hysteria among the fash pack. . . . Symbolism, schmymbolism; that colour looked hot on her.”—Guardian (London)

This article first appeared in the February 2009 issue of The Washingtonian. For more articles from that issue, click here

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