Mrs-O.com is a blog dedicated to chronicling the fashion and style of First Lady Michelle Obama. Founded September 2008. 



What Lady Bird Wore

Her given name was Claudia, but the public knew her by her nickname. She became First Lady when her husband Lyndon Baines Johnson, then vice president, assumed office after the assassination of John F. Kennedy in November 1963. In 1964, Johnson was elected president in his own right via in a landslide election and Mrs. J joined her husband at an inauguration ball that combined Texas exuberance and Beltway-style glamour.

Mrs. J loved wildflowers, particularly Texas bluebonnets-she would become known for her restoration of wildflower fields-but when it came to choosing a color for her inauguration gown, she went with a bold jonquil yellow. Designed by John Moore, a protégé of Norman Norell and the man behind Marilyn Monroe's wedding dress when she married playwright Arthur Miller, the gown was made of double weave silk. It sported a square neckline with inverted pleats and cap sleeves. Over it, Mrs. J wore a matching coat with three-quarter length sleeves trimmed in sable. White opera gloves and a strand of pearls tucked into the neckline completed the look.

The look is incredibly pared down and non-frilly (except, of course, for the sable), relying on the color and the silk, with its luxurious sheen and weight, to make its statement. While we know that Mrs. O loves a wonderful print dress, we have also seen her wear dresses that also rely solely on a bold color, cut, and fabric to carry the day-or the evening. We'll soon see which Mrs. O chooses for January 20.


The Influence of Vionnet

This stunning smoke grey chiffon evening gown looks au courant, but it was designed 60 years ago by Madeleine Vionnet, considered one of the most influential dress designers of the 20th century. Mrs. O's home-town favorite designer Maria Pinto has long said she is a great admirer of Vionnet's work, and with this dress -- currently seen in Chic Chicago: Couture Treasures from the Chicago History Museum  -- we see why. 

Signature Vionnet touches-draping, understated yet vital detailing, and flow of the material--are all present here. Vionnet (1876-1975), who lived and worked in Paris, designed dresses that liberated women from dependence on restrictive underpinnings and corsets. She achieved this by emphasizing the bias cut, which enables fabric to cling softly to the body while the person moves. She also created the halter top, the handkerchief dress, and the cowl neck. Her designs dominated the fashions of the 1920s and 1930s and later designers who were influenced by her work include Geoffrey Beene, Halston, and Azzedine Alaia.

We see some contemporary twists on Vionnet design principles in Pinto's Fall `07 collection  (fourth row, middle photo) and again in her Spring `08 collection (third row, right photo). Chic Chicago indeed. "I have been dreaming of staging a Maria Pinto exhibition and I would love to display one of Pinto's pieces next to a Vionnet," says Timothy Long, curator of costumes and textiles at the Chicago History Museum. "The similarities would be stunning. Both designers' work show their understanding of how properly designed, cut, and constructed gowns should compliment a woman's body."

We have noted in the past how many of Pinto's designs perfectly suit Mrs. O. As Vionnet said, "The dress must not hang on the body but follow its lines. It must accompany its wearer and when a woman smiles, the dress must smile with her." It's a sentiment that Mrs. O would endorse.


A glimpse at the inaugural dress?

There’s been considerable debate over whether Mrs O should showcase her trademark jewel colours for her inauguration dress or go for a classic white gown as favoured by Nancy Reagan and most famously Jackie Kennedy. There are staunch Mrs O supporters in both camps and of course we won’t know either way until the 20th, but we can offer a glimpse of what a winter white inaugural gown might look like.

Back in May 2005, Mrs O wore this gorgeous Maria Pinto dress to attend the Legends Ball hosted by Oprah Winfrey. Stunningly simple in the cut of the bodice, the dress allows the shimmering fabric-it looks like a silk taffeta-to speak for itself. The gown is soft and relatively unstructured aside from the tiered skirt, a touch of drama added with the matching ruffled wrap-a Pinto signature.

Mrs O accessorises perfectly for the occasion with a sparkling choker and earrings and an elegant up-do. The combination of opulence and restraint means that despite the formality of the occasion, she manages to look fresh and youthful. A look at Mrs O’s previous evening wear, including this gown, gives a few intriguing hints as to what we might be able to expect on Inauguration day. I

nterestingly, given her usual vibrant hues, Mrs O has in the past often tended towards a softer palette for evening in pastel pinks and blues. She is clearly a fan of Pinto’s embellished wraps and seems to favour a less structured, more softly draped look than she chooses for daywear. She often wears her hair up in the evening, the better to showcase the statement earrings she favours for formal events and the elegant lines of her dresses. So will Mrs O stay true to form or surprise us all? Only time will tell.


Sneaking a Peek

Michelle Obama Gives an Autograph

Photo used with kind permission from Nevada for Health Care

We think Mrs. O looks lovely in this ribbon-embroidered organza overtop she wore last year in Nevada. Combined with the shiny pewter tank underneath, the top gives her face an extra glow. The tiger eye stone earrings, circled in gold, complete the burnished look.  These kinds of luxurious metallic neutrals could provide a regal look for Mrs. O's inaugural gown. But we won't know until the evening of January 20th what she will be wearing to the ten official Inauguration Balls.

Until then, though, it is possible to get a sneak peek at what other people will be wearing to the festivities.  The site Dress Registry is a handy way for women to record details about what gown (including designer name, color, length, and neckline) they plan to wear to which inauguration fete. Sometimes a photo of the dress is also posted.    Every Inauguration Ball is listed on this site and, so far, we see dresses ranging from Badgley Mischka, Chanel, and Dolce & Gabbana to ABS and H&M. We love fashion democracy and what better evening for it to shine than inauguration night.


A Flair for the Dramatic


Photo used with kind permission from photographer Luke Vargas

"No drama" may be a mantra for President-Elect Obama, but for Mrs. O it's a different story, at least when it comes to her fashion choices. We've covered most of her style signatures-the floral brooches, the jewel colours, the statement belts- in exhaustive  detail.

However, one Michelle Obama favourite seems to have escaped our attention until now--her penchant for a dramatic sleeve.  Yet another distinctive element of her highly personal style, Mrs. O often uses a flared or draped sleeve to add an unusual element to an otherwise classic piece of tailoring. This checked wool coat for example, is given an unexpected twist with the addition of a dramatic bell sleeve that gives it an almost medieval flavour.

Similarly, this classic Peter Soronen skirt suit is given additional interest with a fluted three-quarter length sleeve while a simple black coat is given volume here with extravagantly flared sleeves and an elegant trapeze cut. The stunning red suit Mrs. O wore on Super Tuesday all the back in February 2008 was another early indicator of this emerging style signature.

One more example of Mrs. O's style savvy, these over-sized details not only add individual touches to a sleek and professional wardrobe, they also have an impact on camera or in front of a large crowd that more conventional tailoring would lack. Mrs. O carries the same approach through to other aspects of her wardrobe, often opting for an over-sized collar or exaggerated buttons. While comparisons with the Kennedy White House have been abundant, Mrs. O's taste for a dramatic and voluminous sleeve recalls a much older Camelot, giving our First-Lady-in-waiting a fabulously regal and statuesque silhouette.