First Fashion

February 1, 2009 • Magazine

First Fashion

First Fashion

Sun, 2009-02-01 14:00

Joseph Ungoco

While our new President fights to make critical appointments to his “Kitchen Cabinet”, our new First Lady is making equally critical appointments to her “Fashion Closet”. Mr. Obama’s choices in designers for her official wardrobe reflect the ethnic diversity one would expect of a Democratic President of the post-racial period. Mrs. Obama’s choices equally reflect ethic diversity among American designers. While Mr. Obama chose Hispanic- and Asian-Americans for the positions of Secretary of the Interior and Energy, respectively, Mrs. Obama chose Isabel Toledo and Jason Wu to outfit her on the day and evening, respectively, of her husband’s groundbreaking inauguration. Say what you will of the clothes themselves, but fashion history was made that blustery January day as two designers – who are well known to fashion insiders but relatively unknown to the American public – were elevated to international fashion superstardom. For the first time, an Asian American designer’s inaugural ball gown will stand in the Smithsonian Institute alongside some of the best designers America has had to offer.

The woman behind Mrs. Obama’s wardrobe, already dubbed “The First Stylist” by the fashion community, is Ikram Goldman, owner of Ikram, a boutique in Chicago’s Gold Coast. Mrs. Obama purchased her Isabel Toledo dress and coat, as well as the coordinating green patent leather Jimmy Choo “Glacier” pumps, from Ikram. The green leather gloves were J. Crew. The Swiss wool lace coat and dress – reminiscent of the must-have Prada Guipure lace dress for Fall/Winter 2008 that some fashion insider may have advised you to purchase early last fall – has been variously described in color as lemongrass or hope-evoking gold, but is, in my opinion, more green-yellow than yellow-green. Sorry, Pantone, my color references tend to go back to my beloved box of 64 Crayola crayons (with the built in sharpener!) from my childhood. Regardless of whether the color of the outfit reflects the hope of a nation, the coat’s “secret” – an ultra-lightweight pashmina lining for warmth – definitely reflects the retreat of outward luxury in an economic recession.

For the evening’s round of inaugural balls – the Obama’s attended a total of 10 in 5 different locations – Mrs. Obama chose to wear fashion insider favorite, 26-year old Jason Wu. Wu was awarded the Fashion Group International’s Rising Star in January 2008. The white silk chiffon, one-shouldered, Swarovski crystal encrusted gown drew immediate comparisons to Mrs. Kennedy’s white silk satin Oleg Cassini-designed gown, but I feel the more appropriate comparison is Mrs. Regan’s Galanos-designed one-shouldered silk chiffon beaded gown. Mrs. Obama’s gown bared her left shoulder; Mrs. Reagan’s her right. Could that be some sort of subliminal political fashion statement about the baring of political power by the Left and the Right? Now, before you get into with your friends about who wore it first and who wore it better, let me remind you that another beloved American icon first ingrained this signature look into the popular consciousness – Wilma Flintstone!

First Fashion is off to a great start – bold choices to illustrate the ushering in of a new era in American political history. As with any new endeavor, slight mis-steps and outright mistakes will undoubtedly happen along the way, but lessons will be learned and improvements made. Here’s to a new era in American fashion history!

1. Michelle Obama in Isabel Toledo, AP photo,
2. Isabel Toledo Getty Image,
3. Crayola Crayons Scott Willis Photo,
4. Michelle Obama at the Inaugural Ball 2009 in Jason Wu
5. Jason Wu Getty Image,
6. Jackie Kennedy at the Inaugural Ball 1960 in Oleg Cassini
7. Nancy Reagan at the Inaugural Ball 1981 in Galanos
8. Wilma Flintstone

Image Layout: Allison Merzel

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