Michelle Obama:  An adventurous fashion star


"Changing into an elegant black-and-white Isabel Toledo dress from springy J.Crew pieces Wednesday in London, First Lady Michelle Obama showcased her versatility and officially became one of the fab four of the political fashion world in the modern era—joining Jacqueline Kennedy, French first lady Carla Bruni-Sarkozy and Princess Diana."—Wendy Donahue Chicago Tribune


Will Kate be the next fashion icon?
US first lady Michelle Obama waves as she arrives with her family for a reception in Alvorada Palace in Brasilia March 19, 2011.[Photo/Agencies]

If Kate Middleton's status as a female fashion icon is still questionable, the United States First Lady Michelle Obama has definitely proved she already is.

Michelle's dedication to the issue of Americans' obesity is as strong as her predecessor Hillary Clinton's was to healthcare reform, but her fashion sense, and dedication to her wardrobe, can be another plus that make her stand out among the world's first ladies.

* Dedicated fashion promoter *

Will Kate be the next fashion icon?

Remember the dazzling white chiffon one-shoulder gown she wore for her husband's inauguration on Jan 20, 2009? She gave credit to 26-year-old Chinese-American designer Jason Wu.

The one-shouldered ivory chiffon soon stimulated fashionistas' discussions of that night. TIME fashion journalist Kate Betts said the dress looked more like a wedding gown, but "she wore it in a good way, thanks to Jason Wu."

There, the young Jason joined the first lady's Fashion Wardrobe List and stepped into the American fashion spotlight.

"The gown was graceful - if a tad long - and confirmed, yet again, Michelle Obama's determination to forge her own, independent style persona by relying on the enthusiasm and talent of an emerging new generation of American designers," said Hilary Alexander, a fashion columnist at the Telegraph.

Indeed, her bold choice of this princess-like dress made by a twenty-something Chinese-American designer really meant a lot -- independent, intelligent, innovative, she's telling the world that she's beginning to rejuvenate America's domestic fashion industry.

* Gentle political promoter *

Michelle Obama knows her choice of clothes can send political signals and she chooses her outfits carefully for foreign affairs.

Will Kate be the next fashion icon?

Michelle Obama (L) talks to her German counterpart Bettina Wulff during her visit at the US airbase in the south-western German town of Ramstein, November 11.[Photo/Agencies]


Take the red petal-print silk organza Alexandra McQueen gown, for the example. Her choice of a British designer, though criticized by some "patriotic" American fashionistas, got cheers and whistles from Chinese nationals. The choice of red, which represents happiness and prosperity in Chinese culture, showed the subtle efforts she made for Chinese President Hu Jintao's state visit.

Will Kate be the next fashion icon?
US President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama welcomed Chinese President Hu Jintao during a state dinner in Washington DC, Jan 11, 2011. [Photo/Agencies]

Will Kate be the next fashion icon?

Michelle Obama tours the Istiqlal Mosque with President Barack Obama, led by Grand Imam Ali Mustafa Yaqub during their state visit in Jakarta, Indonesia, on Nov 10, 2010.[Photo/Agencies]

Will Kate be the next fashion icon?

Michelle Obama wore Indian-American designer Naeem Kaur as she and President Obama welcomed Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his wife, Mrs. Gursharan Kaur,Nov 24,2009.[Photo/Agencies]

In Michelle's Indonesia photos, the first lady showed respect for her Muslim hosts, from head to toe, with her carefully picked outfits -- she covered her hair with a beige animal-print scarf, with a nice modest suit, in a vibrant color, as is her preference. The suit comes from New York designer Stephen Burrows (showing her support for domestic designers). Down to her feet, she showed respect by strolling bare feet along a carpet laid across the sprawling courtyard.

* Michelle's signature fashion *

The 1.8-meter tall (5ft 11 inches) Michelle is known for her casual American attire -- a cardigan plus a near-knee-length skirt, and belt, pearl-necklaces, especially double-stranded pearls, and down to a pair of kitten heel, pointy-toed, and above all, her favorite brand J. Crew.

* Brand booster *

Michelle Obama may be the best thing that ever happened to J.Crew. Her love of J. Crew is a universally known fact after she went on the popular American talk show The Tonight Show With Jay Leno saying J.Crew is the brand that she likes to fill up her wardrobe with.

A New York Times report said soon after Michelle showed up on The Tonight Show wearing the brand's clothes, marketers bought "Michelle Obama" keywords on Google, Microsoft and Yahoo, built a page on the jcrew.com website that promoted her outfit, and talked to call-center representatives about how to handle queries about Mrs. Obama's fashion.

Every time Michelle Obama has worn a J.Crew outfit, the company's stock has enjoyed a boost. According to the New York Daily News, the $298 "crystal constellation" cardigan sold out on J. Crew's website by 10 that morning. And the clicks for Michelle's ensemble at jcrew.com boosted traffic to those product pages by 3,000 percent.

For any brand, if the first lady likes to wear it, business opportunities are no doubt to follow.

* Trailblazer of color, accessories *

Will Kate be the next fashion icon?

US President Barack Obama and first lady, Michelle Obama, appear with Oprah Winfrey during a taping of her television show, "The Oprah Winfrey Show," at Harpo Studios in Chicago, April 27, 2011.[Photo/Agencies]

As the first black woman living in the White House, she's suited to be a "strong trailblazer." She knows what makes her look good, and is good at wearing bright colors.

Every time she shows up in public, alongside "hard" political matters, there's always some delightful, eye-catching elements people love to talk about, on her dresses.

Will Kate be the next fashion icon?
Michelle Obama sports a Spring 2011 Marc by Marc Jacobs Simone stripe dress waving before stepping aborad Air Force One in Rio de Janeiro during a state visit with US President Barack Obama, March 21,2011.[Photo/Agencies]
Will Kate be the next fashion icon?
President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama take part in the annual Easter Egg Roll at the White House in Washington, April 25, 2011.[Photo/Agencies]

She's also fond of wearing flower-print fabric skirts with sparking wide belts or a pair of big dashing earrings.

At the most recent Easter Egg Roll celebration, the first lady picked a favorite yellow-gray abstract flower-print sleeveless dress to deliver a welcome speech at the White House.

Michelle's fashion concept, innovative and bold choice of clothing has even gotten praise from the "Fashion Devil" – US Vogue Editor Anna Wintour: "It's inspiring to see our first lady so serene and secure in her personal style," she said after an interview with the first lady in February 2009.