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



What Nancy Wore

Image courtesy of the Ronald Reagan Library

Our trip back in Inaugural Ball history continues, this time to visit the gowns of arguably the most fashionable former First Lady since Jackie Kennedy: Nancy Reagan. In both 1981 and 1985, Mrs. Reagan wore gowns from California-based couturier James Galanos. Known for his unerring attention to detail, Mrs. Reagan dazzled in Galanos's white beaded creations. The dress Mrs. Reagan wore in 1981 was a white, one-shoulder lace, silk satin sheath with crystal and bugle beads. Valerie Steele, Director and Chief Curator of The Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology, described the look as having "California pizzazz".

Despite the fact that Mrs. Reagan didn't own the gown - it was on loan from Galanos - the $10,000 price tag caused an uproar in the midst of the early 80s recession. Further trouble brewed as it came into question whether accepting a designer gift was a possible violation of the Government Ethics Act of 1977. Undeterred, Mrs. Reagan remained loyal to her favorite designer. In 1985 she wore another Galanos gown, in white beaded chiffon with Art Deco influences and a bolero effect. The Austrian and Czechoslovakian glass beads took more then 300 hours to apply by hand. 

Image courtesy of the Ronald Reagan Library

Both taken in the Red Room of the White House, these photographs practically beg for comparison. Former President Reagan looks for the most part unchanged, as though he could have stepped out of one photo and into the other without notice (though Mrs. BT does point out that he switched from tails and a white tie in 1981 to a black tux in 1985). We can see Mrs. Reagan's look, however, dramatically transform from disco-era glamour of the late 1970s to "Dynasty"-inspired extravagance of the 1980s in the span of just four years. From her hair to her gown, the change is immediately evident.

So what style lessons can we derive for Mrs. O? A champion of high-low fashion, we have to think price will be a consideration when choosing her Inaugural Ball gown. As Valerie Steele weighed in for a recent Us Weekly interview, spending in the range of four figures seems appropriate for the occasion and economic climate, but anything more may raise eyebrows. As Mrs. O has proved so capable of doing to date, we're confident she'll choose a gown that's within financial reason, while of course, memorably and timelessly chic.


Opulent Minimalism 

Image via Factio-Magazine.com

We love this photo of Mrs. O with her long-time fashion collaborator Maria Pinto. It was taken on a sultry June day in 2007 at Sepia restaurant in Chicago, where an invitation-only crowd was invited to view a runway preview of Pinto’s fall 2007 collection. One of the hostesses of this event was Mrs. O. Mrs. O’s Mediterranean blue dress—designed, naturally, by Pinto—is made of silk faille, which adds appropriate weight and body to the style while avoiding bulk. The faille ribbing tones down the sheen of the silk while adding a subtle design detail, which can be seen, in a different color, on Pinto’s web site (see image on top right).

Here is one more example of the opulent minimalism that is Pinto’s signature look. Particularly fetching, we feel, are the low-cut armholes and the snug high-banded waist, both of which are style favorites of Mrs. O’s. This picture seems particularly prescient to us: one year later, Maria Pinto opened her one-and-only boutique, next door to Sepia, in the West Loop neighborhood. And the bright color of Mrs. O’s dress seems to foreshadow the night, fourteen months later, when she wore the muted turquoise dress (also by Pinto) while speaking at the Democratic convention.


Chicago Chic, Circa 2004

Photo credit: (c) Todd J. Tubutis

It's fair to say that intersecting stories abound in this photograph. Gathered for the November 2004 opening gala of "Jacqueline Kennedy: The White House Years" at the Field Museum in Chicago, this photograph was taken just days after Mr. O won the junior U.S. Senate seat for the state of Illinois. Mr. O is joined by the ever-glamorous Mrs. O, Senator Ted and Victoria Reggie Kennedy of Massachusetts, and the now controversy-embroiled Rod and Patricia Mell Blagojevich of Illinois - all posed in front of a portrait of Marshall Field, founder of the Chicago-based department stores and the museum's namesake.

Wearing a caramel-gold silk halter paired with a long black velvet skirt, Mrs. O is the epitome of chic. Her dramatic, full hair; her enviable toned arms and back; her clutch demurely tucked behind her back; her rose metallic wrap effortlessly tossed over her wrist - this is why we love and celebrate Mrs. O's style. Taken around the time Mrs. O first began to work with Maria Pinto, it's quite likely that this ensemble is to the designer's credit (our greatest clue is the detailed evening wrap, one of Pinto's specialities).

And for those who have wondered if Mrs. O's fashion prowess might be the result of a calculated campaign effort, rest assured she was stylish long before she was set to become our future First Lady. Remember, this was 2004. While Mrs. O is certainly her own woman, we can't help but embrace the comparisons to Jackie Kennedy. We do genuinely see a link between these two women - in the unparalleled excitement that surrounds Mrs. O, and in her potential to have truly iconic influence.

Not since Jackie Kennedy have we been able to say that about a First Lady, with no disrespect meant to those who came in between. On that night in November 2004, we wonder if Mrs. O found sartorial inspiration in the collection of more than 70 garments once worn by history's great style icon, Jackie Kennedy. And if, perhaps, it crossed Mrs. O's mind just once that she too might have her own White House chapter someday. Just four years later it is our reality - full of hope, excitement, and of course, legend-in-the-making style.

Date: November 12, 2004

Venue: Gala Opening for "Jacqueline Kennedy: The White House Years" at the Field Museum, Chicago, IL


Aloha Mrs. O

Obama + MKH + LO + Michelle

Photo used with kind permission from Flickr user mazieforcongress

On a frigid Sunday morning in December, thoughts of a tropical getaway make for a warm and welcome winter escape. Thus, we happily visit a photograph taken last August as the future first couple returned to Mr. O's childhood home state of Hawaii for a short vacation. Attending a campaign fundraiser in Honolulu (it wasn't all vacay it seems), we're told Mrs. O was very appropriately dressed in "aloha attire".

As one would imagine, the style on Oahu and all of Hawaii is decidedly island casual. But while casual, yes, Mrs. O delivered with a dose of her usual effortless chic. We've come not to expect anything less. Wearing a printed sundress from Narciso Rodriguez's Resort 2008 collection, with her hair pulled back from her face and just the right touches of diamond sparkle, Mrs. O looked fresh-faced and youthful. The gray on white print, perhaps ginkgo leaf-inspired, was distinctive without being loud or overwhelming.

And as our friend Cara, a resident of Oahu, so perfectly assessed, "Mrs. O wore her 'aloha style' with confidence and grace." We'll second that. After the election night polarizer, there's nary been a Mrs. O style conversation that didn't mention Narciso Rodriguez's name. Seen in clothes from Rodriguez's Spring 2009, Resort 2008 and Fall 2007 collections (and those are just the ones we've identified), we do love Mrs. O's consistency and loyalty to her favorite designers - a title which Narciso Rodriguez has certainly earned. Here's looking forward to more Mrs. O and Rodriguez pairings, "Aloha style", White House or otherwise.

Date: August 12, 2008

Event: President-elect Barack Obama with Congresswoman Mazie Hirono, Leighton Oshima and Mrs. O, Obama campaign fundraiser, Honolulu, Hawaii


Well-Suited in Burgundy Tweed


Photo used with kind permission from photographer tehelka

Inspired by Mrs. O's ensemble from the Jefferson Jackson dinner in Iowa last year - a great example of how to wear a classic suit and still look perfectly feminine - we thought we'd highlight another Mrs. O stand-out. We love the burst of burgundy on this two-piecer from Peter Soronen’s Fall Winter '06 collection, worn the night Mr. O won the South Carolina primary in January 2008.

It seems apt that Mrs. O would favor Soronen’s work, as he first established his business in Chicago and continues to be stocked at Chicago-based Ikram, a favorite Mrs. O boutique. Similar to the Peter Soronen frock that Mrs. O wore to the second night of the DNC, this ensemble highlights a high and narrow waistline with its delicate and curve-hugging seams - not a surprise considering Soronen’s extensive work with corsetry.

And though the wonderful texture of the tweed and wide lapels are flattering and season-appropriate details, we’re even more obsessed with the flutter sleeves that playfully call attention to the magenta satin lining. The suit looks fairly classic in shape, but its versatility allows it to be worn many ways. A sheer lacy top underneath, as seen paired with the pink tweed version below, can show off the demure cut and feminine detail, while the skirt or jacket can easily function as separate statement pieces. But by layering a plain white camisole and three stands of pearls, Mrs. O looks professional, classy and approachable—and strikingly like Jackie O, as others have been keen to point out.

Click here to look through Soronen’s Spring Summer '09 collection, “LIVE,” which uses a wonderful range of classic silhouettes, textures, and patterns that we think would look quite dashing on Mrs. O. Pink tweed suit from Peter Soronen's Fall Winter '06 collection:

Photo used with kind permission from Peter Soronen