First Lady Michelle Obama picked fashion insider Isabel Toledo, 47, to design her Inaugural ensemble. The glamorous, creamy yellow dress and matching overcoat were made of satin-backed wool guipure, a kind of lace used most often in French haute couture. Obama accessorized the look with a sparkling crystal necklace and green leather gloves and shoes. Although the First Lady's office repeatedly said that Obama would not decide on her outfit until this morning, the choice including the color, fabric and accessories shows a lot of confidence and planning on the wearer's part. (See pictures of Michelle Obama's Jason Wu dress, her gown for the inauguration ball.)
Cuban-born Toledo, who has been designing for 25 years and worked for a time at Anne Klein, is known in fashion circles as a "designer's designer" for her wit and whimsical sense of pattern, fit and fabric. The Manhattan-based designer also made the black tunic and palazzo pants that Obama wore to a fundraiser last June. But for her husband's swearing-in ceremony, Obama chose an elegantly sunny yellow, a color that for centuries has represented optimism. (See pictures of the fashion of Michelle Obama.)
Toledo, who works out of a studio on Broadway and 28th Street along with her husband, fashion illustrator Ruben Toledo, was an unlikely choice for today's ensemble because she is not a mainstream designer. In 1998 the fashion maverick stopped presenting biannual collections, instead choosing to create on her own schedule. Obama discovered Toledo's work through retailer Ikram Goldman, whose Chicago specialty store, Ikram, is a favorite shopping spot of the First Lady's. Goldman, who carries other Obama favorites like Thakoon and Narciso Rodriguez, is said to have helped Obama order her outfits from the designers. (Read "Can First Daughters Sasha and Malia Give J. Crew a Lift?")
"I was so honored to hear that she's a fan," Toledo said after learning that Obama had worn one of her designs during the campaign. "She chose to wear a dress made by a Latina and made in the U.S.," the designer told the New York Daily News. "She chose to support the industry here."