In spite of the occasional misfire, first lady-elect Michelle Obama is a proven style maven and will likely return the office of the first lady to its 1961 glory. Women’s Wear Daily posted some of the designs options for Mrs. Obama’s inauguration dress. Though some of Mrs. Obama’s favorite Chicago-based and lower profile designers were not included in the mix, here are some of the highlights and lowlights and all the different ways designers see Mrs. Obama and her ill-represented booty.
As much as Betsey Johnson’s lone design in the collection is an obvious product of the designer, it seems more Betsy Ross than Betsey Johnson. The sketch communicates Johnson’s exuberance about the election of Barack Obama through the inclusion of Kanye-inspired phrases like “A PEARL OF A GiRL” and “SHOES AND HEART OF GOLD.”
But the dress celebrates a George W. Bush-era brand of patriotism. We know the Obamas love America, but, as the President-elect has shown us, he doesn’t need to wear his pride in his country on his lapel. Michelle doesn’t need to wear it on her body.
Perhaps what is most disconcerting about this trainwreck of a design though is the sketch of the First Lady. Many of the other sketches showed no resemblance to Mrs. Obama but this one looks more like Betsey Johnson than Michelle. Seriously Betsey?
Diane Von Furstenberg
This Diane Von Furstenberg is standard issue for the designer and for Mrs. Obama. As one of the safer designs in the collection, the First Lady cannot go wrong with this pick, but it would certainly be a disappointing choice.
If Michelle Obama is the style maven she has proven to be, this would show her to be a more Laura Bush-esque first lady. The dress’ simple lines lack much oomph and even the big bow doesn’t do much. Even going with DVF communicates a safe choice from Mrs. Obama.
Inexplicably, Christian Lacroix and Betsey Johnson seem to think that inauguration dresses should be cut from the same cloth as the American flag. Lacroix’s designs are outrageous and grandiose, casting the First Lady in a Cruella de Ville light.
I know Michelle Obama is supposed to be fashion forward, but her face in all five of Lacroix’s designs sceams evil puppy-killer. I don’t know all that much about the role of the first lady, but I’m pretty sure that de Ville is not the image that office wants to be casting. But then again, it is kind of a power move.
I know the Obamas want to communicate that in spite of their patriarch’s tech-savvy, Ivy League education and occasional use of polysyllabic words and their soon-to-be Sidwell-educated daughters, they are still average Americans. Circa 2008.
Zac Posen’s dress is more America circa 1935. Very Little House on the Prairie. The dress even seems like it would be made from curtains. And the bonnet. As much as it speaks for itself as a fashion nightmare, putting a bonnet on the First Lady erases everything previous ball-busting first ladies Eleanor Roosevelt and Hillary Clinton did for the office.
Nicole Miller provided two choices for Mrs. Obama. The suit seems altogether too casual. A hybrid of a Hillary Clinton pants suit and that favored look of sorority girls-black spandex and a white Hanes V-neck-but dressed up more. If Michelle Obama wears this to the inauguration
Her other design-a dress-epitomizes a safe choice. Though there was no standout, this dress had more bearable pizzazz than a lot of the other options, if only for its cooler.
Nicole Miller, like DVF, is a safe choice for Mrs. Obama and she could certainly do worse than a classic dress. But going with such a typical women’s wear designer would be contrary to every precedent set by fashion’s first lady.
Tuleh & Michael Kors
Again, while there was no clear winner in this design competition, there were a few standouts. The dress from Project Runway sensation Michael Kors is a little flashier than the Tuleh, but it has a subdued flair to it. It’s classic and modern without being overwhelming. It’s something Michelle Obama would definitely wear and wear well. And the blue is a bold statement of her husband’s political party. So why not remind everyone of the DNC’s majority presence in Washington. But at its heart, it’s standard, classic, timeless, no-nonsense Michael Kors. Something that will look great in the history books even 100 years from now.
The design from Bryan Bradley’s Tuleh is a similarly excellent choice. Sleek and simple but still stunning, the design captures Michelle Obama’s fashion aesthetic. It also benefits from being one of the few designs that is not a hue on the American flag.
Regardless, whatever designer gets to slap his or her label on Michelle Obama’s inauguration dress will be getting more press than anyone on the Oscar’s red carpet.