Image via Flickr user Studio08 Denver / Creative Commons
Mrs. O's patronage of under the radar American designers, many of them up and coming, some established but lesser well known, is becoming a hallmark of her style. After she wore a bold crane and floral print dress for the National Prayer Service on January 21, we really began to sit up and take notice of one designer in particular, Tracy Feith. As we noted at the time, Mr. Feith's designs tend to have a maverick quality to them, reflecting his surfer roots.
Even before the National Prayer service dress debuted, the January 2009 issue of Voguementioned Tracy Feith in a shortlist of Mrs. O's designers. Was it foresight only Vogue could have? Or had, perhaps, Mr. Feith dressed Mrs. O in the past?
In fact, the article referred to a bold, yet intricately detailed Tracy Feith dress that Mrs. O wore to a daytime Black Caucus event during the Democratic National Convention in late August 2008 (pictured above). We reached out to Mr. Feith's partner, Susan Winget, to get the scoop on the dress. First spotted at Ikram, and later custom altered for Mrs. O, the design is known as "the Lei Dress". Ms. Winget's description: "the bodice is hand dyed cotton and silk, and trimmed in strips of metallic shot, tea dyed chiffon and cotton batik. The skirt is heavy linen. The peach lace trim at the hem is hand beaded with tiny beads and sequins." Additional images of the dress can be seen here.
We love the striking originality of this dress, which combines an almost graphic, sleeveless silhouette with unusual yet effective combinations of fabric and a thorough attention to detail. Perhaps the designer also had this dress in mind when in January he told U.K. magazine Grazia:
"[Michelle Obama] likes things that are feminine but somewhat adventurous. She's not afraid of those things.'"
In the same interview, Ms. Winget commented on the Tracy Feith dress Mrs. O wore for the National Prayer Service, adding:
"It was a real thrill for us in our little-engine-that-could company to see our First Lady in Tracy's dress and to receive such quick recognition. We are beyond flattered."
Tracy Feith is currently working on a lower-priced collection for Target. Look out for it in early May 2009 when it's expected to debut in stores. With endorsement from both the First Lady and Target, Tracy Feith's name is surely on its way to earning well-merited household status.
Photo credit: The New Yorker
Mrs. O recently told People that in lieu of TV, "I read more magazines. The New Yorker is one of my big, sort of relaxing reads." This week's reading, then, will bring a familiar face (or three), as Mrs. O graces the cover of the magazine's biannual style issue. Inside, the arms debate rages on, with a piece by Robin Givhan (one can only hope Mrs. O is having a chuckle at this point) accompanied by a photograph of two of Mrs. O's young, talented designers, Thakoon Panichgul and Jason Wu, dressed in handsome suits and wrapped in an heirloom American flag. In her piece, "Baring Arms," Givhan writes:
"Because of Michelle Obama's affection for independent designers with their own eccentric vision, and her willingness to go sleeveless in the most tradition-bound environments, her legacy may well be to show women how to move gracefully from the insecurities of youth into a sophisticated and stylish maturity. She will have proven, once and for all, that a woman can grow older without looking old."
Further reflection on the cover: We're often partial to a good illustration, but have mixed feelings about this particular effort. Floc'h, the French illustrator credited, has captured the First Lady's likeness better than most have to date, but save for the turquoise sheath dress (a nod to the Maria Pinto design from the DNC?), these ensembles don't seem to reflect the style we know, love and faithfully follow. There's nary a brooch in sight for goodness' sake!
Style specifics aside, the cover's gesture does signal a larger truth. As Cameron Silver, owner of Decades, put it at a recent Friends of the Costume Institute lecture: “Michelle Obama is the current center of the fashion universe.” And if recent magazine covers are any indication - Vogue, People, O, and now The New Yorker - that's a statement hard to deny. Per IVA's suggestion, we also wanted to add this MSNBC interview with Gayle King that comments on the Robin Givhan piece:
Photo credit: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images
Just back from a weekend at Camp David, First Lady Mrs. O and President Mr. O appeared at the Kennedy Center on Sunday evening to honor the 77th birthday of Massachusetts Senator Ted Kennedy. As part of the evening, the senator was honored with the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage award. The evening's entertainment included several of Senator Kennedy's favorite performers - James Taylor, Bill Cosby, Bernadette Peters and Lauren Bacall.
For the event, Mrs. O wore a tiered and ruched black dress last seen at the Obama Staff Ball, paired with a standout statement necklace with yellow and blue stones that we believe has been confirmed to be Tom Binns. As several have noted in the comments, the necklace shows resemblance to that worn for the Vogue/Calvin Klein fundraiser last June. Per usual, The Huffington Post has fantastic images, here.
Jacqueline Kennedy in front of the Taj Mahal, May 15, 1962; Photograph by Cecil Stoughton
The White House has announced that President and First Lady Mrs. O will make their first overseas trip since moving to the White House - visiting England, France, Germany, Turkey and the Czech Republic for a series of World and NATO summits from March 31 to April 5. This seems like a fitting time to look back on the influence Jackie Kennedy had while travelling overseas as First Lady. We turn to one of our all time favorite books, "Jacqueline Kennedy: The White House Years" for insight:
"Jacqueline Kennedy used clothing as theatrical device, dressing in subtle complement to her host nation. When she visited Versailles the Parisian couturier Givenchy was given due credit as the the author of her fresh but regal ensemble. For a trip to Mexico Cassini created a collection of outfits for her in appropriate "sun colors." And for the tour of India and Pakistan Jacqueline Kennedy assembled a wardrobe from various fashion houses with the panache of a costume designer. Its vivid palette was that of Mughal miniatures, and the reflective fabrics conferred an additional brilliance."
Mrs. O's style is increasingly known for its range and multiplicity, the result of a woman who dresses for herself, not a calculated image. While not a constant, there have been times when Mrs. O has undeniably used her style to send a thoughtful message - first to mind are the optimistic lemongrass ensemble worn on Inauguration Day as well as the Kai Milla design worn on the recent evening Stevie Wonder was honored at the White House.
This first overseas trip presents a similar opportunity for Mrs. O, particularly when visiting nations where fashion is so deeply entrenched in the country's culture. As Mrs. Kennedy displayed, attention to nuanced wardrobe details can pay dividends in such cases. Will Mrs. O charm the British in Alexander McQueen? Enchant the French in Sonia Rykiel? Perhaps even bring her Azzedine Alaia belt out of the archive? The thought of Mrs. O and Carla Bruni Sarkozy in the same room is almost too much for our fashion loving mind to handle. Needless to say, we have much to look forward to in the weeks ahead. We'd love to hear your thoughts on Mrs. O's overseas trousseau.