Michelle Obama's Fashion Statement

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Alessia Pierdomenico / REuters

First Lady Michelle Obama smiles during a visit to the Capitolini Museum in Rome

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She wears long coats too, doesn't she?
She does wear a lot of long coats. It's summer now, so we haven't been seeing her in them, but certainly all through the fall she wore a lot of long coats, which made great sense. She really chooses unusual colors. She doesn't often go with the traditional spectrum: red, cobalt. She does not do that. She does chartreuse, she does teal. The red that she uses is a kind of tomato; it has an orange tint to it. I personally think that it takes an evolved sense of aesthetics to see those colors and like those colors and wear those colors.

If I may venture an opinion about one outfit, I thought that what she wore the night Barack Obama won the nomination, that red-and-black dress, was awful.
It was not my favorite dress ... I did not think it was the most flattering look on her for sure. I would like to say that we all get it wrong sometimes, and even [if you're] someone like Michelle Obama who has help and resources and a fantastic physique, you get it wrong sometimes. I think that endears her to women. We all get it wrong. It almost makes me feel better. If someone like that can get it wrong, goodness knows I can.

What about her outfit on Inauguration Day? There was an argument in our office about whether that was yellow or green.
The argument ensued for a while. The designer is calling it lemongrass, which I think is a chic way of saying in between yellow and green. It was layered, it was textural, it was chic. It looked beautiful on her. It photographed well. But that's an off-color. Not many people wear that color.

What about her off-the-shoulder dress in the evening?
I think most people really liked it. I loved the feeling of it. It was light and ethereal. It seemed to me to capture what that moment must have felt like. I thought the color was beautiful on her.

How should a First Lady dress during a bad recession?
Well, I think she's exactly doing it. I think she's not being extravagant. She's the first First Lady I can remember who repeats clothing. She wears high and low. She wears H&M and she wears middle J. Crew. She wears high-end designers. But she certainly mixes it up. I've never seen a First Lady repeat before.

What fad would you give her credit for starting? What do you see selling because of her endorsement?
I'm minding my own business in line at the bank and I'll see a woman in front of me wearing a skirt that's a little longer-length ... kind of falling below the knee, and a cardigan that she belts over. I think, Oh, the Michelle effect. There you go. It's right there. Boy, I bet cardigan sales have gone through the roof. I think sleeveless sheaths — we're seeing many, many more of them. I think she has kind of given everyone this freedom to mix up the pieces in their wardrobe.

What do we know about her relationship with her daughters' clothing? Does she pick out what they wear?
This is conjecture, because no one's really talking, but evidently she really gives them a lot of freedom in terms of what they want to wear. I think when you see them going to and from school, they really look like their own little people. Certainly for the Inauguration, the team that put Michelle together, and I do believe it was Ikram Goldman who did both the day and night Inauguration outfits, also dressed the girls. And they were in J. Crew, head to toe. They're not photographed very often, the girls.

Have you followed Barack Obama's clothing at all?
There's not that much to follow. [Laughs.] I think the man sleeps in a suit! I'm starting to wonder.

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