[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i.l.cnn.net/cnn/2008/LIVING/homestyle/12/22/obama.urban.chic/art.pinto.jpg caption="Future first lady Michelle Obama with one of her favorite designers, Maria Pinto."] CHICAGO, Illinois (CNN) - Michelle Obama turned the campaign trail into a runway this year, sporting eye-catching colors and feminine cuts that sent fashion bloggers buzzing.
As she coupled chic designer splurges with off-the-rack goodies from J. Crew, H&M, White House/Black Market and Target, fashion spectators say her ability to make a strong statement on a budget sends an important message during tough economic times.
Watch: Michelle Obama, First Lady fashion icon?
"Michelle Obama can't be too over the top; she has to be recession chic all the way," style expert Mary Alice Stephenson said. In a soured economy, the choices she made throughout the campaign show that "she gets it," Stephenson said.
And it's inspiring American women to emulate her style.