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


Entries in Maria Pinto (29)


Setting the Tone

Photo used with kind permission from photographer Lauren Victoria Burke/wdcpix.com

Before we get to see Mrs. O in a gown at an inauguration ball on January 20, we will first see her when her husband is sworn into office. Daytime dress for the inauguration ceremony participants is always business formal. Traditionally, the President wears either a morning suit (Ronald Reagan) or a dark business suit (George W. Bush). John F. Kennedy donned the cutaway, but he shrugged off his winter coat for his speech-even though the temperature was a bitter 22 degrees. (He did wear a top hat to the ceremonies, but thereafter he shied away from wearing hats during his administration.) The impression he gave was one of youth and vigor.

Jacqueline Kennedy had been out of the public eye for most of the 1960 campaign because she was in the middle of a difficult pregnancy. So most of the country took their measure of the incoming 32-year-old First Lady on that inauguration day. Her debut was memorable: a fawn colored wool coat tailored with princess seaming and large cloth-covered buttons; underneath there was a matching dress. She wore a matching domed pill box hat. Designed by Oleg Cassini, Mrs. K's outfit ran against the fashion trend of the time, when women wore full length fur coats. Jackie's understated coat sported only a delicate sable ruff around the neck and she carried a small matching fur muff. It was a deliberate and calculated decision on her part, knowing that many other wives on the dais would be wearing full length mink and beaver coats.

"The first impression you got was of a very young woman surrounded by bears," said Oleg Cassini in his memoir A Thousand Days of Magic: Dressing Jacqueline Kennedy for the White House. In contrast to others that day, she appeared fresh and exciting. So what kind of impression will Mrs. O make? "The word on the street is she will be wearing Maria Pinto," says Timothy Long, curator of costumes and design at the Chicago History Museum.

With that in mind, we look back at what Maria Pinto designed for Mrs. O the last time she attended an official swearing in ceremony: It was January 2005 when her husband was sworn into the U. S. Senate. With a nod to tradition, Mrs. O wore a matched suit, but a close examination shows the outfit was anything but ordinary. The suit consisted of a form-fitting jacket with inset shoulders and a zippered front plus a pencil skirt, both in a blue, navy, and white windowpane pattern with a dark purple thread running through it. The jacket had a sleek, streamlined feel, almost like an athlete's warm-up top executed in a luxury fabric. Mrs. O played off that body-conscious, sporty look by pairing the suit with Maria Pinto's Saigon blouse design made up in purple charmeuse. While under the jacket, the blouse looks like a beautiful bow-at-the-neck number, but once the jacket is removed the blouse reveals its racer back, the better to show off Mrs. O's toned upper arms. As we learned with Jacqueline Kennedy, a first inaugural impression speaks volumes. It is communication by fashion.

Following that thought, what do Mrs. O's clothes say to us? Her outfit in 2005 speaks of the road ahead, a marathon of unforeseeable challenges, and of her ability to run the course with style, grace, and an acknowledgment of tradition enlivened with her own personal fillip.


Bundled Up Beautifully

Michelle Obama-at Blackbird

Image used with kind permission from Seth Anderson, B12 Solipsism

On December 5, the temperature in Chicago topped out at 18 degrees. So it is no wonder that this glimpse of Mrs. O that day revealed her sporting a casual but winter-ready look. The occasion was a lunch with two friends and she didn’t have far to go as she left the restaurant Blackbird in the West Loop (located around the corner from Maria Pinto’s boutique) and walked to the car driven by the Secret Service.

Yet she showed her Chicago roots as well as her fashion sense in her choices for such bone-chilling weather: an off-white puffer coat and grey yoga pants tucked into blue snow boots. The elegant Mrs. O is fabulous, but this BFF look warms our hearts. Puffer coats are notoriously difficult to wear and it is a rare one indeed that doesn’t make its wearer resemble a Michelin tire figure. But we think Mrs. O looks "casual Friday"- great here. In part, her height helps carry such a coat, even this one with horizontal banding.

But as usual with her, the details are engaging: the built-in waist with a silver buckle provides some figure definition and the distinctive patch pockets add a little flair to the utilitarian coat. We think this puffer, with that nipped waist, resembles some by Moncler or Prada. And the large black tote with the partial chain shoulder strap and turn lock outer compartments is both practical and stylish, calling up memories of handbag designs by Marc Jacobs and Jimmy Choo. But knowing Mrs. O’s penchant for fashion democracy, we would not be surprised if these choices had lower price points. This DKNY coat offers a similar look.

What do you think? Please let us know if you have the answers about the coat or the tote. This got us pondering other winter choices Mrs. O has made. It is hard to be both beautiful and bundled up, but Mrs. O achieved that balancing act when her husband declared his candidacy for President of the United States. Kathleen and Michelle

Photo used with kind permission from Kathleen Miller

It was February 10, 2007, and in spite of frigid temperatures, the launch of the Obama campaign started outdoors, in front of the old State Capital building in Springfield, Illinois. Mrs. O braved the cold weather for her husband’s historic speech by keeping herself warm in a black coat made of a blended alpaca and cashmere material. The coat was by home-town favorite designer Maria Pinto. Light in weight yet incredibly cozy, the wrap coat had a large portrait collar and a self belt, which Mrs. O tied into a Windsor-style knot. Wrapped around her neck was a purple scarf secured at the collarbone by a large crystal brooch—an early glimpse of what would become one of her trademarks. Bracelet-length gloves and a small-brimmed hat in black finished this Mrs. O winter wrap-up.

During a December 2007 visit to Maria Pinto’s studio, we learned that Pinto had made this coat for Mrs. O especially for this occasion. While discussing the details of this coat with Mrs. O, Pinto had asked what coats the two Obama daughters would be wearing to the outdoors presidential campaign announcement. “Michelle said she hadn’t even had time to shop for them yet,” said Pinto, “so I offered to whip up some coats for them, too.” With all the female members of the Obama family facing down the below-zero wind chill in coats designed by Pinto, it was a stylish beginning to the official campaign. Winters in Iowa are even less temperate than those in neighboring Illinois, but once again Mrs. O combined practicality and fashion for campaigning in the first caucus state.

In this photo from the opening of an Iowa campaign office, also in November 2007, we see Mrs. O wearing a black double-breasted coat with square buttons placed at an intriguingly diagonal angle. The large buttons are reminiscent of Mrs. O’s favorite accessory, the brooch, and the raffish banded collar echoes the twist of the buttons.

Michelle at West Des Moines, IA Office Opening 11/29/07

Photo via Flickr user Barack Obama / Creative Commons

The simple elegance of this coat, a boxy style with three quarter length sleeves, calls to mind images of Jacqueline Kennedy during her White House years. Yet, at the same time, the kimono sleeves and a hint of an overall cocoon shape make us think of the 1982 “mode japonaise” runway shows in Paris that took the fashion world by storm with works by designers like Yohji Yamamoto and Comme des Garcons. We also appreciate the punch of cobalt blue peeking out from under the coat. It not only brightens a cold day, but gives the outfit an added depth. In all three looks, there is one consistent note in her winter styles: she wears them with confidence. Now that Mrs. O has her ways of braving the elements down pat, she faces a new fashion challenge: Dealing with the far more temperate climate of Washington DC.


Must Read Mrs. O

A peek inside the January 2009 issue of Vogue

On this frigid weekend in the Northeast, Mrs. O and family have returned to Hawaii for a final retreat before they make their way to Washington. And while the world eagerly awaits the Inauguration, the Mrs. O media frenzy continues.

A few of this week's highlights:

The Washington Post: Gown & Country Robin Givhan, The Washington Post's Fashion Editor, brings us more Inaugural designs from Rachel Roy, Kevan Hall, Doo-Ri Chung, Derek Lam, Tracy Reese, Marchesa, Lyn Devon and Peter Som. While there are a few repeats from the WWD sketches, several of these new additions seem to better embody Mrs. O's signature style. The Rachel Roy asymmetrical gown in ivory silk crepe is perhaps our favorite to date - a sophisticated, modern look for a modern First Lady. The Inaugural design craze doesn't stop here. The Washington Post is taking it a step further, inviting readers to submit their own designs. The grand prize? Robin Givhan's favorite design will appear in the Post's Style section. Layo G., we see you were one of the first to submit a design. Congrats and best of luck!

L.A. Times: A lesson in Thakoon economics From the moment Mrs. O wore Thakoon's floral frock for the final night of the DNC, we've been anticipating the arrival of the designer's lower-priced line for Target. This weekend, the L.A. Times Fashion Critic Booth Moore gave the upcoming Thakoon for Target collection a compelling review. Noting similarities to Thakoon's runway collection, even writing that "Thakoon ripped off Thakoon", fans will have good reason to visit Target on December 28. But the biggest question: Will Mrs. O wear pieces from the line as well? What a coup for high-low fashion that would be.

Vogue, January 2009 The arrival of this glossy paged gem always puts us in a good mood, and January's issue doesn't disappoint. A special feature section in tribute to our new president-elect includes a series of beautiful portraits by Annie Leibovitz. The caption for a striking photograph of Mrs. O reveals it was taken during the June 2007 shoot for Vogue. Mrs. O wears the same Narciso Rodriguez gown seen in the image used for Paris Match, though here it appears in an azure blue and is paired with a sapphire blue wrap. We also took note of the caption's title, "A Lady First", which rang familiar but took a minute to place. It's the title of the excellent memoir by Letitia Baldrige, an accomplished businesswoman who was also Jackie Kennedy's White House social secretary. There is one paragraph from the Vogue feature that we must share here. It offers a succinct, insightful perspective on the frequent comparison to the Kennedys:

"The obvious comparison here is to Camelot. But that would be a mistake. In the matter of iconicity and cultural authority, the Obamas have no need to look backward. On the contrary. Nevertheless, this tribute to the new president and his family echoes a tribute to President Kennedy published in Vogue on January 1, 1961. It's hard to believe that it's been almost 50 years since the country felt so inspired, so happy to look ahead."

Finally we'll end with a new CNN video that covers the Inaugural fashion buzz and takes us inside Maria Pinto's Chicago boutique. (The video also gives this site a brief and much appreciated mention. Thank you CNN!)


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.


A Hidden Jewel 


Photo credit: Flickr user Barack Obama / Creative Commons

Since the triumphant end of the campaign, Mrs. O appearances have been thin on the ground, with fashion watchers’ attention now firmly focused on the Inauguration. Fortunately, we’ve uncovered this hidden gem from the archives to feed our craving. Pictured at an event in back in January, Mrs. O looks effortlessly chic in a petrol blue silk blouse teamed with gently flared grey pants.

We can’t definitively identify the blouse but once again we suspect a Pinto creation. The pleated neckline recalls both this apricot silk blouse and the much-applauded red gown Mrs. O wore on her recent visit to the White House. The gorgeous blue-green jewel shade is also a Pinto favorite, featured extensively in her Fall 07 collection. Mrs. O cinches the blouse with another of her signature statement belts.

After extensive investigation, we believe this is actually her beloved Alaia belt worn in reverse, a variation also seen at this event in Iowa. An ingenious piece of fashion recycling if so! IMGA0684.jpg

Photo credit: Flickr user Barack Obama / Creative Commons

We love this rich, bold color on Mrs. O, but equally, we love how this outfit flatters her curves. A master class in how to do volume without adding bulk, this combination skims and flares in all the right places, creating a beautifully elongated silhouette. Once again, it all comes down to the belt, Mrs. O’s weapon of choice in dressing to flatter her hourglass curves.

Date: January 15, 2008

Event: Campaign speech, Georgetown, South Carolina