The Dress

Michelle Obama Isabel Toledo

There was no way I wasn't going to love this dress. First of all, I love that color. Secondly, I love Isabel Toledo. (I actually met her — and her fantastic husband — once. She's even better in person.) Then, when you add in that she is wearing all that as THE FIRST LADY, well, you can see how one might become a bit overwhelmed.

And then those fantastic gloves! Swoon. [Disclosure: I have a vintage pair in just that color.]

I read a couple of pages of people's comments on this on the NYT caucus blog, and was disappointed that no one seemed to realize that Michelle Obama does what I advocate everyone should do: she wears what makes her happy. Could she have worn some boring royal-blue, be-Spanx-ed sheath, by Oscar de la Renta (no offense, Oscar, but you know what I'm talking about) and gotten relieved and approving nods from the Fashion Commentariat? You know she could. But she obviously loves those gloves: they made her happy, so she wore them. WITH a yellow wool lace Isabel Toledo!

The thing is, you can't please everyone all of the time. You can't even please most of the people most of the time. Which is why, especially when it comes to clothes, you have to please yourself. You're the one wearing them; you're the one in the pictures; you're the only one whose happiness is even remotely under your own control: so do what feels right!

Michelle Obama Jason Wu

I like this one too, even though it's not my taste. (In other words, I don't have a tulle-laden Jason Wu in my closet next to my green gloves.) I do think it looked great. But even if I didn't, I'd see that Michelle Obama is accessorizing it with the only things that really matter: confidence, happiness, and the kind of ease that comes from having made one's own decisions.

And that, my friends, is something that I hope the new First Lady brings firmly into fashion.

0 thoughts on “The Dress

  1. I agree with everything you said. And look at the “gown” photo. His eyes are riveted on her. I think her confidence also comes from what appears to be the deep love between them.

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  2. I hated it when I first saw it. It looked sparkly in the first online photo I saw and Im not into sparkles for daytime. Im so glad it wasnt! I love it that the dress coat combo is throwback to the 60s. Shes amazing. Her confidence and intelligence is deeply inspiring. I like it that they both seem to have a sense of humor, too.

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  3. Anonymous Kim: Yes! Those little girls were wearing DARLING coats. I want one for myself. The coat, not the little girl, though a daughter would be nice to have one day, too.Also, I’m excited about the yellow dress because I’ve been meaning to make this type of ensemble for a while now. Erin, when you talked about searching for a good winter dress yesterday, I was thinking about how much I want to make brocade sheaths with long matching jackets. Dozens of them. And here, the first lady wears exactly what I’d been thinking of. (I have stockpiles of the fabric, too.)Meanwhile, although I’m not much of a one-shoulder person myself, I loved the texture and drape of the ball gown. I’m glad I wasn’t anywhere near her because I would have wanted to touch touch touch it. Plus: Backing up to say: Isabel Toledo! I loved the article about her in the NYer last year(?) and decided that if I lived in NY, I would very much want to be her friend and hang out with them and have a generally nutty time.

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  4. Erin, I love your post. Totally. I love the way you are dealing with this momentous event; it rings true to me in every way, and it’s so *you*.Congratulations from a Canadian, you guys. And may you be able to admire many, many more of First Lady Obama’s confidently and gracefully worn dresses!

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  5. I didn’t know if I liked it or not at first but what I love is that she is such an individual! She wears what she likes and thats how I like to dress. She made herself happy and it truly showed and I’m pretty sure Pres. Obama thought she was pretty hot too. And isn’t that all that really matters?

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  6. Erin – once again you have eloquently expressed what I was thinking. Loved her choices, and wished all day that I was tall enough to wear clothes like that. And 60s Sewer, I completely agree. As Whoopie Goldberg said a few weeks ago, you can really tell that they are nuts for each other and some “whoopie will be going on in the White House.” Nice to see a great example of a married couple with great affection and admiration for each other.

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  7. Completely agree, Erin!Not only is Michelle Obama the queen of all she surveys, she doesn’t have to dress to please the hoi polloi; she only has to dress to please herself, and that self is one stylish, elegant, confident, mesmerizing package.I LOVED the daytime ensemble she wore yesterday and totally disagree with those who are saying that sparkles are verboten in the daytime. Baloney. The tiny — and subtle — sparkles were emblematic of the importance of the day, The Occasion, of the day and of history, while simultaneously adding a touch of glamour. And I’m all for glamour!I’m also all for the “throwback to the 60s” and the whole vintage vibe. It’s timeless, it’s elegant, it’s classic, yet it’s still modern. Isn’t that why so many of us wear vintage in the first place?!And the pop of color from the gloves and shoes was PERFECTION.As for the Inaugural Gown, hey, look, no, it didn’t “read” well on television. But screw television. She was dressing for real life, not for TV. Once I saw still photos of it, I saw how ethereal and shimmering and delicate and unusual and gorgeous it was. Also, gals, white makes a statement. While 90% of women, when they think “gala,” automatically think boring black, Michelle Obama (who looks delicious in black) thinks something else. She is a queen. She is a blessing. She is a bright star in our for-too-long dark-filled firmament.Ave Regina!

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  8. I’ve loved Michelle Obama’s fashion choices all along, even the dress she wore on the night of the election. Real clothes worn by a real woman. I thought she looked elegant at the swearing in ceremony and regal at the ball. And yes, his eyes were riveted on her in that white dress. What a beautiful, intelligent, talented First Family!Anna

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  9. When I saw her yesterday, I saw gold (rather than yellow).I remembered back to my favorite publisher- Guillaud Potter and the Mattise book they did years ago with gold pages inside. They did it because they could : )It made me happy to see her so happy. Confidence is always the best accessory!

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  10. I adored both outfits, but even if I hadn’t, you’re point is a good one: She absolutely SHONE because she was happy and confident.

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  11. YES!!!! thank you so much for saying this. Fie on the small-minded nay-sayers! Hurray for Michelle (and the fact that she’s a woman of serious accomplishment).

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  12. I thought she looked fabulous, the gold colour was interesting, and the whole outfit was elegant and flattering. The ensemble had clear “Jackie” allusions to me.

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  13. I thought the dress was a lighter shade of the glove color, anyhow. I waivered on her ball gown. I like the body of it, but wasn’t crazy about the shoulder strap, I thought it cut her off between the shoulder and neck weirdly. But it’s still a beautiful gown and (neck thing aside) looked great in it.

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  14. Erin, you couldn’t have said it better.I’m so impressed by the fact that she looked so comfortable in both outfits – which showed that she is really comfortable with who she is.Bonus points for wearing the beautiful heels, and not being afraid to appear taller than her husband.And as far as the gown – she did have one more accessory – did you see that coctail ring? wow.

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  15. Also… If you can’t look sparkly and shiny on the day your husband gets inaugurated as president, when *can* you look sparkly and shiny? 🙂

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  16. I was SO excited when I saw her wearing chartreuse (with olive gloves! to die for)! So symbolically awesome–the color of new growth–and walking a great line between classic and bold. The evening gown was also less my taste, but lovely–and lovely on her. (Your blog was the first one I went to this morning by the way, because I KNEW you’d have a good take on the outfits – and I totally agree with your take away lesson.)Also: loved Aretha’s hat!Smart, creative, confident, well-read, thoughtful, caring (and damned good looking!) people in the White House…that’s some change I can believe in! Hooray!

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  17. Loved her day ensemble, I agree w/ you on the night (not my style) but it looks great on her and she’s confident and beautiful. She’s so real.And the gloves! Killer!

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  18. From my blog readings, it seems like people who sew really like it (while others who are into fashion but aren’t sewers) have mixed feeling. I really like Michelle’s style, but sadly, my body is unlike hers so I can’t follow her fashion trends (other than brooches and flats!)

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  19. Of course I loved both the dresses. The ball gown reminded me of Mamie Eisenhower’s: ultra feminine, crystals and rhinestones, soft color. In fact, I think Mamie’s was the last gown that was as soft and tulle-y as Michelle’s. And I really, really love the irony here–because of course the tulle and rhinestones is just about where the similarities end. I think somebody could write a really fun article comparing Mamie’s and Michelle’s ball gowns, how they reflect changes in women’s lives, and images of women, over the last 50 years.

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  20. I must admit, my first REAL impression of Michelle Obama’s style–on election night (I wasn’t an Obama supporter, so hadn’t paid too much attention to her style)–was not good. I thought that dress was hideous. However, she’s completely redeemed herself. The color of the daytime ensemble, the gloves: lovely! I’ve never liked one-shoulder gowns, but that one is beautiful, and it looks great on her.

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  21. I love that it was a dress with a cardigan (plus the coat). I don’t like suits (unless they are vintage), and thought her set was so refreshing.

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  22. I loved her daytime outfit and the fabric of the gown but I really didn’t care for the cut of the gown. It seemed to chop her up into pieces to me. I think I would have put her in something princess-seamed to accentuate her long line.So nice to see such a stylish First Lady again!And I liked Aretha’s hat.

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  23. I have only one thing to say about Michelle Obama’s amazing daytime ensemble: Wool Lace. Who’d a thunk such a creature existed???

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  24. I read some other blogs about her outfits and was struck at how many posters (not here) were all upset because she had broken some “rules”…sparkles before five or diamonds before six or whatever. The people couldn’t even agree on what the “rules” were…they were just sure she had broken them. I appreciate the attitudes here…the rule is wear what makes you feel good. And it’s clear she did that. And Arethas hat was FANTASTIC!

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  25. I’m totally with you on liking Michelle because she dresses for herself and nobody else. I absolutely loved her day ensemble (though I wished the girls were wearing hats; I was on the Mall and it was coooooold). I wouldn’t have put her in that dress–the waist seam needed to be higher or lower, and it needed to fall more softly from the waist seam rather that poofing out immediately into a shelf/ridge at hip level–but I loved her in it because it was obvious she personally chose it because she personally loved it. There was no stylist dictating what she should wear because it would “read well” and project some sort of manufactured image. Brava, Madame First Lady. Don’t lose that indepedent spirit!!!!

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  26. I love both of Mrs Obama’s outfits.In my opinion “fashion rules” aren’t real rules anyway so feel free to break them. I agree with the poster who said you should be able sparkle on your husband’s special day.Some felt the evening dress wasn’t fitted enough. I disagree. Most hollywood actresses wear their gowns too fitted and it doesn’t look classy at all. Anyway President Obama thinks she looks good no matter what. I also loved Aretha’s hat.

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  27. Mme Marron,Do you know the name of the style of hat of the woman in your avatar, or can you locate it for me in history? I *so* love it!

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  28. You didn’t mention one very important accessory Michelle wore with that Wu creation: the look on Barak’s face. I LOVE seeing the two of them together — they are so obviously into each other.

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  29. I thought she looked lovely in both outfits. Bravo to her for being an individual. Who else would have the guts to pull off a suit that color? (I see the press are calling it “lemongrass.” For once, the name is actually descriptive.) And to me, the evening gown looked very Grecian-goddess, very classical; a nice subtle reference to the cradle of democracy!

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  30. People, love that dress/jacket combo or hate it, it is TOO COLD for the ensemble she had on, here in DC in January. Even as a Chicagoan, this was a silly choice for her, and on the two occasions where she and the President got out of the car to walk along in the parade, you could see her struggling to hold the “coat” closed (smiling all the while, but it did blow her poise a bit). That woman was FREEZING, as was Mrs. Biden.Jacqueline Kennedy, who by the way had the flu and a 104-degree temperature on inauguration day, wore an Oleg Cassini ensemble that included a wool jacket that buttoned to the neck, a fur muff, and a hat. Lady Bird Johnson had on a hat and a sumptuous fur coat (see them here in several great photos: Couture Allure blogpost. Fur politics aside, these women were at least dressed as chicly as possible for being outside for an extended period of time on a winter day. Unfortunately, Mrs. Obama was dressed for an Easter event, not a January event, which made me question her sartorial judgment.

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  31. Thank you for posting an unobstructed view of her outfits. In all the news photos I could find, you couldn’t see her clothes because some guy with big ears seemed to be standing in the way. In every.single.photo. Can you believe that?!I too love the gloves!

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  32. I loved both dresses, and the Fashion Police obviously did not go to Cotillion, becausen as Etiquette says, she is First Lady now, and according to “The Rules” whatever the First Lady does is correct. She wears sparkles in the daytime? The First Lady wore it, it is now correct. And she is such a gracious, intelligent lovely person, whatever she wears, her spirit shows through.

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  33. I immediately thought of you when I saw what Michelle Obama was wearing today at another prayer service … a dress and flats, not the usual first-lady suit! She definitely has her own style and the dress this morning was refreshing. Saw it on the news, haven’t found a link to a picture but maybe later.And I liked the sparkles on her dress yesterday … certainly if your husband is being sworn in as president, you can wear what you want!

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  34. Erin, you put it so well — as always.I have to say that I loved Jill Biden’s outfit and her gown, too, though it seems people are debating whether they were “appropriate.” Under the happy and confident guideline, I think they were winners!

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  35. Right On!I love how she takes risks and exudes confidence and just takes obvious joy in fashion. I love that she doesn’t even have to *say* that it’s ok to be smart and like clothes, because it just so clearly *is*.I also love that she went with a gown that says youth. She could have pulled off stately, but where’s the fun in that? She looked so soft and beautiful, and about 25 years old. Our first lady is a stone cold fox!

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  36. I loved the dress – I also would call it gold rather than yellow. At any rate, she looked absolutely REGAL in it; you could definitely imagine her as a Queen.

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  37. I loved the afternoon ensemble on first sight! It had a traditional yet sporty vibe…just right when we’re in a recession. (The necklace might have cost a fortune, but it reads subtly.) (Is that a necklace?) My favorite touch is that she’s wearing a cardigan under the coat…a little nod to being willing to be a touch frumpy if it gets the job done; i.e., she may be taking her coat off and on throughout the day and doesn’t want to be caught in just a single, skimpy layer of clothes.The evening dress says “young” to me, AND I LOVE IT! I adore white evening clothes, anyway. It’s not what I would choose for MY style, but she looks lovely and delighted and chic. I especially like the airy-ness of the overlay. Seems breezy, optimistic, fresh. And her jewelry is subtle…very VERY nice. (Plus her arms, throat, etc. look fantastic.)

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  38. I love that she accessorizes with J Crew (the gloves, the kids coats). What completely stands out to me is the image that the Obama family projects. Michelle (we’re on a first name basis in my head) is no wallflower, and she is just as responsible for her husband as POTUS as he is. She is, in every way, his equal. Every interview and image I see of their family projects this, from their clothing style to their body language, and it is just lovely. Her white gown? Stunning. Simply stunning. And you can bet your ass that those gloves are selling like hot cakes!

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  39. PS: I would have liked the scarf under the coat to be a paler shade. I think I spotted a scarf…anyway, it jumped out a bit too strong for my taste and was a teeny bit distracting from the overall impression.

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  40. I haven’t got any reason to critique the wearing apparel of anyone, most women in the public eye in political word don’t often go insane with poor choices and too much attention-grabbing outfits.However, I must say I have liked *everything* that Mrs. Obama wears. I like her style, she exudes confidence, poise, and excellent posture. I liked her inauguration outfits, her election night outfit, all of itI like seeing anything she wears, and I don’t see her pulling a Nancy Reagan, wearing extravagant clothing at someone else’s expense.Both President and Mrs. Obama are admirable, and I can’t wait to see what they are capable of in public service, executive decisions, and all else that lies in front of them.When’s the last time we were all THIS HAPPY, and have so much to look forward to?

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  41. I loved her color choice for the inauguration gown–everyone else was so boring! Yet it still fit in, rather than looking odd amongst all the black wool greatcoats. It’s right that the First Lady stands out from the crowd.

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  42. I love Michelle Obama. As a person, she seems great. Her fashion choices are beautiful and unconventional and original. She is a real, strong, confident woman, and that definitely shows in her fashion choices. I love having a first lady and a role model like her. She is inspiring me to take more risks in my personal dressing, and be more outspoken and true to myself in my life, too.

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  43. I agree with you totally. I love and covet those green gloves, lucky for you you have a vintage pair. As to the evening gown, I think she wore it well. To me, this is a great example of less is more and kudos for her to wear not the tried and true of the old guard designers!

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