While the developed world’s heads of state convened on England and France for the G-20 and NATO Summits, respectively, the worlds of finance and politics held their breath. For those of us in the fashion world, we knew all along that the really important news would be who won in the fashion sweepstakes among the wives. As the first 100 days of First Lady Fashion draws to a close, the stakes are high for Michelle Obama and the world is watching. Here’s my take on her recent European tour.
As she stepped off of Air Force One at Stansted – the last Bush arrival at Heathrow in June 2008 wrought havoc – Mrs. Obama looked like a bright ray of American sunshine piercing the bleak English skies. The sunny silk dress was by Jason Wu and the sweater coat was by Azzedine Alaia. Her now signature Alaia studded belt pulled the whole look together. Things seemed – at the time – off to a good start.
The next day, Mrs. Obama arrived looking fresh and rested at 10 Downing Street for breakfast with the Browns. I couldn’t possibly tell you what the President and the Prime Minister said or even what they wore, but I do know that Mrs. Obama’s ensemble of an embellished sweater and a J.Crew mint green jacquard skirt was perfectly springtime, in sharp contrast to Mrs. Brown’s drab dark outfit, complete with monochrome hose – in the daytime no less. Everyone in fashion seems to either love or hate that our First Lady wears so much J. Crew. I’ll go with an uncharacteristic â€œno commentâ€ at this time, but I will say that I think it’s rather genius to wear a mass market brand when having breakfast with the wife of a Labour Party Prime Minister. I’d like to believe that Mrs. Obama would have dressed differently were the current British Prime Minister a Tory.
The most anticipated event of the Obama’s European tour was their invitation to tea at Buckingham Palace with Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II. Mrs. Obama arrived perfectly dressed – for a night at the opera! Her all black silk satin ensemble – Jason Wu opera coat, Jimmy Choo kitten heels, and baton clutch – was undeniably chic, but not at all appropriate for a day time event, let along high tea with the Queen. Things went steadily downhill from there fashion-wise. Later it was revealed that, under the coat, Mrs. Obama was wearing an Isabel Toledo dress that was white on top and black below, paired with yet another Alaia cardigan. The embroidered skirt of the dress, its shape enhanced by tulle petticoats, was appropriately tea length, but the overall effect was more â€œCarrie Bradshaw on the side of an M2 busâ€ than â€œFirst Lady of the United States meets the Queen of Englandâ€.
Thankfully, Mrs. Obama kept her Alaia cardigan on for the duration of their meeting, sparing the Queen from the mortifying sight of bare shoulders indoors in the daytime. Mrs. Obama did remove her cardigan for a red carpet photo opp later in the evening. Perhaps she had no time to change between events and was simply trying to create a layered look that would carry her from day to evening. Regardless, with the world’s fashion press watching so closely, she should have worn something special – maybe something from classic American designer like Bill Blass, Oscar de la Renta, or Carolina Herrera – for her first time meeting the Queen, and she should have changed into an evening look afterward.
The next day was even worse. To meet the students of a London secondary school, Mrs. Obama wore a psychotic school marm outfit. The sequined argyle cardigan by Junya Watanabe can only be described as being as loud and obnoxious as a Texan in Europe in the 1950’s. The Jason Wu cocktail dress that she wore underneath full-skirted and tea length, but did not really flatter her figure. A pencil skirt might have been a much more attractive choice. Perhaps Mrs. Obama’s decision to recycle her Inauguration Day green Jimmy Choo Glacier pumps was homage to Earth Day, but the color was so far off from the rest of her outfit that the choice seemed bizarre.
The fashion press loves our First Lady rivalries, even when we create them ourselves. From Jackie Kennedy and Her Serene Highness Princess Grace of Monaco to Nancy Reagan and Raisa Gobachev, we love to pit the fashion conscious wives of the world’s leaders against each other. We love comparing First Lady fashions and we take it as seriously as any soccer fan takes the sport. Our current favorite fashion game to watch is USA vs. France. I’ve said before that it’s not really fair, given Mrs. Bruni-Sarkozy unfettered access to Parisian couture<, but I have to admit that Mrs. Obama fared much better at the NATO Summit in Strasbourg, France.
Mrs. Obama looked radiant in a black and magenta coat and reverse color-coordinated dress with – surprise – sleeves. Both women wore coats with bow ties at the neck, but the former fashion model and current First Lady of France looked rather drab and conservative in her dove grey belted Christian Dior Haute Couture coat. Of course, given the current economic climate, she has to be very careful of any unflattering comparisons to Marie Antoinette. Thankfully, Americans don’t have anyone like that in our short history as a nation. We always want out First Lady to look great at home and especially on the international stage.
For the NATO dinner, Mrs. Obama wowed the assembled crowd in a black – back to sleeveless – Alaia knit dress with a full skirt. The shoe-obsessed took note that she was wearing a proper 3â€ inch heel. American fashionistas can rest assured that our First Lady brought her A-game to France. Unlike the World Cup, we won’t have to wait four years to see our next First Lady Fashion Face-Off. The next NATO Summit is scheduled for September in New York, right after Fashion Week, where we’ll be watching our other favorite USA vs. France competition: Anna Wintour vs. Carine Roitfeld!
1. March 31, 2009: Landing at Stansted Airport outside of London. Dress by Jason Wu. Belt by Azzedine Alaia. Coat by Michael Kors. Photo: Getty Images
2. April 1, 2009: Visiting Maggie’s Cancer Caring Centre in London. Skirt by J.Crew. Photo: Getty Images
3. April 1, 2009: Arriving at Buckingham Palace to meet Queen Elizabeth II in London. Satin opera coat by Jason Wu. Photo: Getty Images
4. April 1, 2009: Inside Buckingham Palace to meet Queen Elizabeth II in London. Top and skirt by Isabel Toledo. Cardigan by Azzedine Alaia. Photo: Getty Images
5. April 1, 2009: Meeting British Prime Minister Gordon Brown at 10 Downing Street for dinner in London. Top and skirt by Isabel Toledo. Photo: Getty Images
6. April 2, 2009: Speaking at the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Language School in London. Sweater by Junya Watanabe. Dress by Jason Wu. Pumps by Jimmy Choo. Photo: AFP
7. April 3, 2009: At the NATO Summit arrival ceremony at the Palais Rohan in Strasbourg, France with Carla Bruni Bruni-Sarkozy. Michelle Obama’s coat by Thakoon.
8. April 3, 2009: Meeting the German chancellor in Baden-Baden, Germany. Dress by Thakoon. Photo: Getty Images
9. April 3, 2009: At the opening of the NATO Summit at the Kurhaus in Baden-Baden, Germany. Dress by Azzedine Alaia. Photo: Getty Images
Source: NY Mag