The First lady of Fashion

The inauguration of Barack Obama into the US Presidential Office was undeniably change of ground-breaking, history-making magnitude. And after just a month in office, his impact is already palpable. Whilst the youth and vitality he brings to the role has been a welcome change, the hearts of the fashion world have fallen at the Louboutin-clad feet of a woman who is never far from his side. We’ve all fallen head over heels for Michelle Obama.

After nearly a decade of the Bush years, an administration synonymous with tired regimes and a first lady similarly attired, Michelle’s seemingly effortless style is a breathe of fresh air to the fashion world. In fact, a brief historical glance in the direction of the first lady’s past reveals exactly why the fashion industry has become so enthralled with her. As a female position of iconic status, the first lady has long faced this inevitable scrutiny. You’d think that during the course of the dramatic style changes of the past half century, the likes of Hilary Clinton, Barbara Bush et al could have put on a better show. Not since the days of Jacqui Kennedy, with her iconic and highly recognisable style, has the American public had a first lady with any real fashion credentials. Now with an era of new leadership and, most significantly, change, all eyes in the fashion world lie expectantly on Michelle.

And so far, she has delivered at every opportunity. Her elegant combination of high end and high street showcases both her cutting-edge style and a sense of modesty. Nevertheless, during the election campaign she tallied up an impressive list of designers, showcasing some of the key trends of recent seasons. As her husband’s prospects for power increased, the fashion industry began to sit up and notice. By the long-awaited inauguration ceremony, designers were falling over themselves to dress her, instigating a global stylist frenzy with desperate attempts to second guess Michelle’s outfit choice for the numerous inauguration balls. The successful candidate was twenty-six year old, little known designer Jason Wu, a fitting choice considering Michelle’s tendency thus far to favour small, independent designers; although Michelle’s interest has inevitably caused Wu’s credentials to sky-rocket.

The inauguration ball commotion is just another example of how the media have fallen for Michelle. She has become the primary subject of numerous television shows, websites and articles which are passing constant judgement on what and who she is wearing at every moment. Her most recent foray can be seen on the cover of the March issue of US Vogue, arguably the most flattering testimonial to her sense of style. But it seems there is more to Michelle than just another style icon. There is something so likeable and endearing about her that it seems that all the media attention surrounding her is simply a reaction to the world’s desire to get to know her a little better. Her decision not to use a stylist like so many before her generates applause from women everywhere, who are sick of seeing over-styled celebrities reaching the fashion top tens. She dresses herself and her kids in US high street favourite JCrew, a good move as a role model for parents in the midst of the recession. And to top it all off she plays her role so well, the epitome of a proud wife and mother.

So what can we expect next from Michelle now that she has conquered both the independent yet notoriously impenetrable platforms of the White House and Vogue? Judging by her style choices thus far, I think the fashion world can expect great things from Michelle. Whilst she will never upstage her husband Barack, next time we read a paper or watch the news our attention will be momentarily shifted to a proud, elegant woman standing a little to the left.

Nikki Osman 


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