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


Entries in Isabel Toledo (14)


The World's First Lady of Style

President Barack Obama & First Lady Michelle Obama Image via Flickr user cliff1066 / Creative Commons Last week we saw a subtle, yet palpable change in the tone of how the world's press reported Mrs. O's style. Aside from the sheer, unstoppable volume of coverage garnered by the inauguration and her place within it, the consistent theme was one of decisive admiration: if ever there had been any debate about who was going to be the First Lady of Style on a global stage, that debate was now over. Perhaps particularly interesting to see AFP, the largest news agency in France, home to Carla Bruni, headlining their piece in this way. Inevitably there were the articles that examined Mrs. O's appearance in 'get the look' micro detail and a multitude that limited themselves to describing her outfits and the delighted reactions of the designers responsible, both of whom had become worldwide household names overnight. Yet what we found particularly extraordinary to see were the less transient themes that emerged from the European coverage last week. In short, a whole-hearted, emotional adoption of Mrs. O which transcends that even of an international style icon and role model. In her article Why Michelle is our belle, Hannah Betts at London's The Daily Telegraph talks of a 'communal crush that spans the Atlantic... Michelle is unique in being sufficiently imposing to be inspirational, whilst not being so far removed from the great mass of womankind as to prove alienating. It's a fine line, this heroine business, and she treads it most deftly." Another theme that took root across Europe's press over the weekend was of how her inauguration attire aimed to "silently signal the kind of First Lady she intends to be". As Lisa Armstrong wrote in The Times (London): "On this evidence, Mrs. O is going to be one forward-going First Lady....with one dress Michelle Obama had to reveal her personality and strike a blow for American style. No problem." There was little criticism of the one-shouldered, winter white Jason Wu dress, rather a celebration of its chic, feminine modernity. Other writers referred to her "high-powered personality" and "soft power" as they spoke of the renaissance she represents in every respect, from her championing of American design to her intelligent grasp of the live issues facing modern women and the communities they live in. As Tim Shipman, another writer at the Daily Telegraph, states: Mrs. O's outfits at the inauguration "cemented her status as the greater fashion icon in the White House since Jackie Kennedy...but there is more to Michelle Obama than that - much, much more....not merely an informal adviser but the power behind the President and on some issues even a leader." We will leave the last word here again to Hannah Betts at The Telegraph, who put it perfectly: "Can one woman bear this weight of expectation? I think we know the answer."

Must Read Mrs. O

It's taken us three days to comb through all of the post-Inauguration Mrs. O press coverage, but we've finally narrowed our "must-reads" to the list below. We have to admit, we're feeling quite charmed by Isabel Toledo's lemongrass coat and dress for Mrs. O (as was the intent), so you may see the coverage lean in her favor. We've probably missed a few good articles, so please feel free to post your recommended reading in the comments section. The Associated Press: "Michelle Obama's Dress: What color was it really?"

"'I called it lemon grass because it's not yellow, it's not green,' designer Isabel Toledo said in an interview Tuesday. The fact that colors on textiles can take on changing tones is an important element when making clothes, she said. 'It gives the wearer and the viewer much more of an individualized experience.'"

WWD: "Pomp, Circumstance and Celebs"

"Isabel Toledo said she was pleased the First Lady was willing to go with lemongrass, 'a hopeful color that is so to the core of the beginning of things.' 'It could have been blue, red and more in keeping with tradition, but I really felt we could do something different,' said Toledo."

New York Magazine: "Picture Windows"

A 2006 feature gives us a look at the magical Manhattan loft and workspace that designer Isabel Toledo shares with her illustrator husband, Ruben.

New York Times: "The First Lady, in Ivory and Vivid Yellow, Tells a Story With Fashion" (and bonus video narrated by Cathy Horyn)

"Invoking another president with a glamorous wife—that would be, maybe, John F. Kennedy? — President Obama told military guests at the Commander in Chief Ball last night, 'I have the special honor of being the guy who accompanied Michelle Obama to the ball.'"

(For background on Cathy Horyn's reference - in a May 1961 trip to Paris, President John F. Kennedy famously said, “I do not think it altogether inappropriate to introduce myself…I am the man who accompanied Jacqueline Kennedy to Paris, and I have enjoyed it.”)

Washington Post: "All Hail the Leader of the Fashionable World"

"[Mrs. O] has been compared to Jacqueline Kennedy, the last first lady to so thoroughly embrace style as a form of communication. Much is made of the fact that they both wore sleek, sleeveless dresses and had an affection for pearls. But the real similarities may be in the way they used clothes to set a tone for their husbands' administrations."

"As her husband's administration promises more jobs and help for small-business owners, and emphasizes creativity as one of this country's greatest assets, Obama's choice of an iconoclastic, immigrant female designer with a modest business sends a profound message of intent."

The Huffington Post: Michelle O: Fashion Provocateur?

Finally, we'll end with a YouTube video via The Huffington Post that chronicles Creative Director Simon Doonan's impromptu reworking of the Barney's New York window displays in honor of designer Isabel Toledo and our new First Lady, Mrs. O.

Update: Adding one more "must read" that provides more background on the fast rising designer Jason Wu. New York Times: "The Spotlight Finds the Designer Jason Wu"


A Beacon of Style and Optimism

Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Mrs. O, our First Lady. You are truly remarkable in every sense. Through that sea of black wool, you shined bright - in a yellow lemongrass suit that made you a beacon of both style and optimism. With more time to take this in, we are loving the subtleties of Mrs. O's ensemble. Her grass green J. Crew leather gloves and coordinating Jimmy Choo "Glacier" pumps offer something unexpected, her signature "twist"; while Mrs. O's diamond pin (or is it a necklace?) brings light to her face. 

For those wondering about Sasha and Malia's coats, the AP reports: "Their daughters were style icons in their own right, with 10-year-old Malia in a double-breasted periwinkle-blue coat with a blue-ribbon bow at the waist, and Sasha, 7, in a pink coat with orange scarf and satin belt, a coral-colored dress peeking out at the hem. Their coats were from Crewcuts by J. Crew." In a new report from WWD, Ruben Toledo (Isabel's husband and an accomplished illustrator) elaborates on the design team's excitement this morning:

"We're levitating - we really are," Ruben Toledo said minutes after watching Michelle Obama on CNN in an ensemble by his wife Isabel. The husband-wife team tuned in surrounded by their staff in their Broadway showroom. The soon-to-be First Lady did not tip her hand in any way. "We had no idea. We hoped she would wear something because she has bought Isabel's clothes before. We never know what's going to happen," he said.

Post from earlier this morning follows: Inauguration Day begins

Image via bobster1985 / Creative Commons

The AP reports that Mrs. O is wearing Isabel Toledo, the Cuban-American designer who famously dressed Mrs. O for the Vogue / Calvin Klein fundraiser in June 2008. In an October interview with the New York Daily News, Toledo revealed that she had designed several more ensembles for Mrs. O. We find it interesting that both last night and this morning Mrs. O has chosen yellow, a color which until now we haven't frequently seen in Mrs. O's wardrobe (save for her appearance in head to toe J.Crew on The Tonight Show).

In December 2008 Pantone named Mimosa the color of 2009, a color that "embodies hopefulness and reassurance in a climate of change". Is Mrs. O's favor for the color, perhaps, her way of projecting optimism? Cathy Horyn to the rescue. In a New York Times blog post, the journalist reports that not until this morning did designer Isabel Toledo know Mrs. O would wear the lemongrass-yellow coat and matching dress. "We're all up here watching the T.V.," the designer said in a photo interview from her New York studio. "It's great. We're so happy." Horyn writes that the coat and dress are made of Swiss wool lace, backed with netting for warmth and lined in French silk. "I wanted to pick a very optimistic color, that had sunshine," Toledo said. "I wanted her to feel charmed, and in that way would charm everybody."


Found Treasures: Tom Binns Jewelry

Image used with the kind permission of Tom Binns Design.

"Jewelry is always a treasure and though it may not be made of gold and diamonds, it should still have that sentiment." Such is the philosophy of Tom Binns, whose jewelry designs have been worn by Mrs. O - most notably at the Vogue fundraising event hosted by Calvin Klein in June 2008. The ornate and clever work of Binns (born in Belfast, Ireland, and now residing in California) has long been known to the fashion cognoscente.

Influenced by the Dada movement (a philosophy that started around 1916 and rejected conventions in art and thought), Binns concentrates on "object trouves" - found objects like beach glass and faux gems - and reworks them into stunning pieces of jewelry. Mrs. O wore his necklace with a flowing black tunic and evening pants by Isabel Toledo. The necklace is a unique piece from Binns' The Raj Collection (so unique, in fact, that Binns himself doesn't have a studio photograph of the necklace).

"It was a take on the Maharajas' jewelry from India, which is extremely decadent," Binns told us. "I tried to interpret the look using faux materials such as fake pearls, vintage rhinestones, and sea gems." "To go to an event held in your honor and hosted by Calvin Klein - well, that could make anyone feel intimidated," says Sally Singer, Fashion News Director for Vogue. "But [Mrs. O] didn't hesitate or pander; she wore this outfit and jewelry - I mean, Tom Binns is a sophisticated choice! - that made her very special. That is not Fashion 101 - that's graduate level." Of course, we already knew that Mrs. O was at the head of the fashion class. But we continue to be awed by her ability to find and combine exciting pieces of fashion. Evidently, she excels at the object trouves philosophy as well.

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