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Michelle Obama, Jan 20 2009

A yellow dress and coat by Isabel Toledo worn by Michelle Obama, Jan 20, 2009

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OK, let's talk about Michelle Obama's Inauguration Day outfit

  • Jan 20, 2009
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Now that the swearing-in Inaugural ceremony is over, on to more important things. Let's talk about Michelle Obama's Inauguration Day outfit.

It's a glittery yellow sheath dress and accompanying knee-length coat specially made for the First Lady. The shoes are emerald-colored kitten heels. The look is finished off with a pair of olive leather gloves.

First impressions: The spring-like color palatte of yellow and green she has going on is fantastically in tune with her husband's campaign message of hope and change. It's bright, fresh, and most definitely symbolic of a new beginning.

Considering the brands that she chose to wear, the First Lady has negotiated that fine line between being down-to-earth and aspiratonal. It's an outfit that's at once relatable (most middle-class women own something from J Crew), carries just a touch of glamour appropriate to the festivities (Jimmy Choos), but still shows an independent edge (Isabel Toledo, an independent Cuban-American designer who's little-known beyond fashionistas and hipsters).

According to the Kansas City Star, the dress and coat costs around $1,500. Adding in the shoes and the gloves, we can estimate the total cost of this outfit to be around $2,000. While this is pricey, it's not un-affordable for most American women who want to splurge. Again, the comfortable price range straddles that fine line between being relatable and aspirational. It's expensive, but not too much (hint, hint, Sarah Palin).

No more Oscar de la Renta
What also sends a message is what Mrs. Obama is not wearing; namely traditional fashion heavyweights like Oscar de la Renta, who has outfitted many a First Lady (such as Laura Bush) before. I like how the outfit is centered around Isabel Toledo's creations, which spotlights a niche designer who has a fantastic way of pairing coarse and delicate fabrics.

One little critique
One little thing that bothers me about the outfit: The olive gloves with the emerald heels are two shades of the same color. Not to sound like a whiny style commentator on E!, but I'd style the olive gloves to be a totally different color, not one that sorta-kinda matches the emerald shoes. Maybe black gloves, or some sort of neutral color. The olive just looks so drab compared to the bright emerald green.

A new precedent for Power Couple-dressing
But overall, it's an exciting outfit — and sets a purposeful, distinct contrast to the President's outfit. Instead of going all matchy-matchy as a couple (which would be the obvious thing to do), they instead chose outfits that contrasted each other's. He's all decked out in black with a conservative, regal red tie, while she's an unpretentious breath of citrus-y fresh air. They must have coordinated this in advance, and as counter-intuitive as contrast-dressing may have seemed, they look great together. More importantly, they look modern and current.
Michelle Obama, Jan 20 2009 Michelle Obama, Jan 20 2009

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January 23, 2009
I am totally dumb when it comes to fashion to women and I love the way you broke everything down in your write up. Fun review for the First Lady!
January 21, 2009
They gotta bring back the Dockers! And Bugle Boy!
January 20, 2009
First off, I want to say that I love the layout of this review! Its organization is well thought and easy to read by way that it breaks down the outfit by color, brand, and past & future fashion statements! Great analysis! Secondly, I agree that Michelle's outfit was a breath of fresh air; it was a strong, modern statement, which was in marked contrast to the conservative, tailored, gray ensemble chosen by the outgoing First Lady, Laura Bush. All in all, Michelle Obama's outfit was smart, youthful and visually representative of the hope that 'The Obama Effect' encompasses. Bravo to Michelle and her stylist team!
January 20, 2009
As for Aretha's hat, I kinda liked it! That enormous bow was so cute, but maybe a little ... infantile? I do understand that other people feel differently about it.
January 20, 2009
I think the coat is made with wool, and lined with netting and silk. It looks very cozy, and I don't blame her for not wanting to button up. Gotta show off the dress!
About the reviewer

Ranked #83
I'm a curious foodie, a devout fashion gawker, and an unrepentant print nerd. I work at one of the last mainstream commercial magazines that's still printing.      Other things … more
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On President Obama's Inauguration Day, Michelle Obama wore the following:

1) Yellow coat and sheath dress by Isabel Toledo
2) Olive green leather gloves by J Crew
3) Emerald "Glacier" kitten heels by Jimmy Choo

The outfit generally drew positive response from fashion critics, many of whom noted Mrs. Obama's spotlighting of a little-known designer Isabel Toledo and optimistic yellow color.
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