Graduated from Princeton University and Harvard Law School, Mrs. Michelle Obama will always be remembered as a First Lady full of grace, charisma, intelligence, and empathy. In her role at the White House from 2009 to 2017, she was actively involved in confronting children’s obesity with healthy eating habits and exercising while being a cheerful “Mom in Chief.” She participated actively in talk shows, public events, pop culture ceremonies. She even had a special appearance in the successful TV show iCarly.
Connecting successfully with Americans is not an easy task to do, and she did it while using fashion as a tool of political communication. Michelle Obama’s style includes a wide variety of garments that went from American signature brands like J. Crew and White House Black Market to American fashion designers like Jason Wu and Zac Posen.
Mrs. Obama was able to put into the international press the talent and beauty of American fashion, adapting and thinking thoroughly to the nature of the events she was attending.
Until today, Mrs. Obama’s style is a source of inspiration for new collections, young girls who follow her role model, and anyone looking for inspiration to dress gracefully in a political environment with big expectations, a wider audience, and a reputation at stake.
Let’s look at some of the most memorable fashion lessons the 44th First Lady of the United States gave us, while seeing her style evolve throughout the years, and how we can apply these fashion lessons in our day-to-day clothing selection.
A Shimmery Dress
Formal evening events can be tough, especially if you have several of them planned ahead, and many people will see you at each event. Black is a smart and safe choice, but you cannot use black forever. Red is bold, and it can be elegant, but then again, you shouldn’t use red gowns repetitively in short periods of time. Shimmery dresses are timeless pieces that are elegant, fashionable, and you can find them in different colors. In May 2010, the 44th First Lady of the United States wore a Peter Soronen blue shimmery dress to meet the former president of Mexico Felipe Calderón and his wife, Margarita Zavala. The shimmery fabric gives a nice sparkle to the look highlighted with a silver belt and earrings. It is nicely balanced to be unique without becoming ostentatious or flamboyant. The silhouette of the piece is nice and can be used by people of different sizes and skin tones.
If you have a lot of evening events to attend, a shimmery dress in a timeless color that you like is a good idea; it will make you stand out from the crowd without being too flashy.
Covered from neck to toe.
Weather is one of the most important factors that determine our clothing selection. This factor categorizes clothing into seasons, making it easier for us to curate looks depending on how hot or cold it’s outside.
During the colder time of the year, there is an opportunity to make elaborated looks with accessories, layers, and pieces that will cover you from the cold weather. This can be an exciting challenge cause you don’t want your look to be monotone and boring, but you don’t want to wrap yourself around a bunch of stuff and end up looking like a Christmas tree. A very well-executed neck-to-toe look for the winter season is this outfit Michelle Obama wore on November 11, 2011. She attended a wreath-layering ceremony in honor of Veterans Day at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.
Her neck-to-toe look in a simple yet sophisticated color palette makes her look fashionable and classy while keeping herself warm during the cold November’s weather in Virginia.
Florals that Match your Style
There are certain styles that are timeless. Over the summer, we wear white and navy; during the fall, we love earthy tones like mustard, ginger, and bronze. And when the spring comes, floral dresses in all colors, proportions, and shapes become available in the store. It is safe to say that you could invest in a lovely floral dress with classic colors, and you can style it fashionably for a long time. In 2014, Michelle Obama wore a green floral dress by Naeem Khan to cut the ribbon of the Met Costume Institute’s New Anna Wintour Costume Center. The monochromatic dress has some tridimensional floral details that add sophistication to the entire look. The green shade is elegant and easy to wear for different occasions that could take place indoors or outdoors.
There are many kinds of floral motifs with different textures and dimensions. Find the floral motif that aligns better with your style and your personality; it will be a long-lasting piece that you could style in different ways and will make you look spectacular.
And the list could continue endlessly. With so many public appearances, trips, speeches, tours, and ceremonies, Michelle Obama has been able to show her authentic self through fashion. She offered visibility to emerging fashion talent; she celebrated the fashion industry of the countries she visited. She dressed up with successful looks and affordable fashion that demystifies the idea that elegance is a synonym of wealth and not accessible to everyone. And her fashion sense is not going away. She left the White House in 2017, but her authenticity in clothing selection prevails wherever she goes. Whether she promotes her bestselling book or her Netflix cooking show to promote healthy eating habits in kids, Michelle Obama continues to be an inspiration not only in fashion but also as a woman of color who motivates people to seek a seat in the table, regardless of their background.
When you are invited to an event, the first thing you should do is research the nature of the event: the venue, the hosts, the guests, the occasion, and the reason for the event to take place. This will give you a better idea of what kind of clothes to wear and not to wear. The dresses for a cocktail party are different from the dresses for a wedding ceremony or for a beach evening party. So you need to "understand the assignment" to make smarter fashion choices.
In March of 2012, Michelle Obama was invited to the Nickelodeon Kids Choice Awards to present Taylor Swift for her philanthropic efforts supporting tornado and flood survivors in the United States. (PRS News Wire.) The event's audience is mostly younger folks who watch their pop idols wear juvenile looks on the carpet and perform during the ceremony. The award ceremony took place in Los Angeles, and Will Smith was the host that year. With all that valuable information, Mrs. Obama understood the assignment and wore a sparkly look by Wes Gordon that put her directly on the "Best dressed guests" list.
The metallic houndstooth jacket is very flattering to her body. The print from the waist down emphasizes her hips, and the seam at the waist on top of the high-waisted pants gives her a nice hourglass silhouette.
This look shows Mrs. Obama's versatility and how comfortable she is wearing strapless evening gowns, or jeans and sneakers, or two-piece sparkly looks, or a girly floral cocktail dress. Versatility is often hard to find, as many of us tend to shop following a particular pattern. We look for a similar color palette or a silhouette that we know it's flattering in our body. Give yourself the chance to try clothes that are outside of your comfort zone, just the way Michelle Obama did it with this two-piece sparkly look. Some of them will work, some of them won't, that's why it's important to keep trying new clothes, evaluate them objectively, and make decisions to shop smartly with clothes that show your authentic self.
Embrace Your Uniqueness
The world was watching Michelle Obama's last public appearances as a First Lady. After eight years of breathtaking fashion moments that went immediately viral, Mrs. Obama took seriously every fashion assignment until her very last day in office. On October 18, 2016, the Obama's hosted a state dinner where they received Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi and his wife, Agnese Landini. At the event, several celebrities were invited, including Frank Ocean, Chance the Rapper, and Giorgio Armani (USA TODAY).
The former First Lady wore a beautiful rose gold dress by Versace that glowed beautifully with her skin tone, was truly celebratory to the event, and was a charming gesture to acknowledge the Italian fashion industry in front of the Italian Prime Minister.
The dress was a risky choice since historically, First Ladies wear a more conservative attire for state dinners, almost as a mother of the bride dress code where they don't stand out. However, the Versace rose gold dress had a very positive response in the press and social media.
Neckline as the focal point
As mentioned earlier, black is one of the safest and most elegant choices for evening events. It is flattering, and it looks good in all skin tones. The challenge with black dresses whatsoever is to keep them interesting. How are you going to stand out in a crowd of black dresses? How is the dress you are wearing different from the several black dresses you’ve worn before?
Mrs. Obama wore this “new version” of the little black dress at the ESPY Awards in July 2017. The dress is by Cushnie et Ochs and the silver earrings by Jennifer Fisher. The zig-zag neckline becomes the focal point of the look, which was a smart decision since most of the pictures show her waist up. The biggest fashion lesson of this look, is that necklines don’t have to be provocative or vulgar to be special and attractive. It is the asymmetrical shape of the neckline that makes this dress special and makes her stand out in an event full of black dresses.
If you love black dresses and have several of them, or you have a couple of them that make you very happy, try to style them differently and create variations of this look. You can style it with silver, gold, or any colored jewelry, really. Black is a beautiful and sophisticated choice, but it is also overused, so it’s important to look for details that make our black garments special and unique.
A Statement Shoe
A statement shoe is a piece of footwear that becomes the focal point of your look. It is interesting in its form, texture, color, or shape, celebrating your personality. Statement shoes are particularly useful in events where you’ll be able to move, walk, and essentially have the opportunity to show these outstanding accessories. The one and only Michelle Obama knows how to use a good statement shoe.
Mrs. Obama’s clothing selection as the First Lady of the United States was a matter talked about by people around the world. “How does she look like?” “Who’s the designer?” “How much did it cost?” So in many ways, it was a relief for her when she left the White House to continue a professional career and make more “risky” fashion choices that won’t be judged by how expensive they are. With no “First Lady” dress codes to follow, one of the most exciting moments in Michelle Obama’s fashion after being a First Lady was this look she wore during the tour for her book “Becoming” in 2019 at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center with Sarah Jessica Parker as her special guest and interviewer.
In a sold-out event at a 19,000 seat arena with a bestselling book, Michelle Obama celebrated the presentation of her work with so much attention and support from the public that her clothes celebrated this significant moment in her life. The yellow dress and the glitter thigh-high boots that she wore that night went viral almost immediately. The $4,000 boots were described by online users as “badass,” “breathtaking,” and “hella fashionista” and made total sense in a public event with so much attention, where she sat down most of the time and was able to show the boots. This is definitely a statement piece that she could rarely have worn as First Lady, but she now can, and people around the world are crazy about it.