January 21st, 2013
09:17 PM ET
10 years ago

Drama in red: First lady doubles down on Jason Wu

Washington (CNN) – After all the anticipation and waiting, perhaps the biggest bombshell about Michelle Obama's inaugural ball dress was that it really wasn't a surprise at all.

Like 2009, the first lady wore a gown by the Taiwanese-born American designer Jason Wu, who was catapulted into the highest echelons of fashion when Obama donned one of his designs four years ago.

Obama, who is known for favoring lesser-known American designers, had several dresses presented to her before she made her decision, and didn't reveal what she would wear before she stepped out on stage at the Commander-in-Chief's ball, making her repeat turn in Jason Wu a rare moment of suspense amid the scripted revelry of the inauguration.

Monday's gown was a vibrant ruby red, made from chiffon and velvet, according to details released by the White House. It had design parallels to the flowing white chiffon dress Mrs. Obama donned in 2009, which firmly cemented the first lady's arm-baring, cinched waist style.

Those arms were again on display Monday in Mrs. Obama's halter-style dress, and a strip of duchess satin gathered the vibrant red fabric in tightly to her waist. An embellished ring designed by Kimberly McDonald held strips of fabric together at the first lady's neck. She paired the gown with Jimmy Choo shoes, the White House said.

As for the president, he wore what appeared to be the same tuxedo he donned at his 2009 inaugural balls, complete with white bow tie and flag pin.

Mrs. Obama's first appearance Monday sparked a blitz of amateur fashion criticism on Twitter, with the reaction mostly positive:

[tweet https://twitter.com/ClaudiaMota/status/293543716126355458%5D

[tweet https://twitter.com/LaurenKMaloney/status/293543652758794241%5D

[tweet https://twitter.com/saramsteckling/status/293544586901585920%5D

[tweet https://twitter.com/amroth86/status/293545014074671104%5D

Others, however, were less thrilled. Van Jones, a former Obama administration official and a CNN contributor, said though the gown was "very nice," it wasn't "such a great dress that the other dozen people shouldn't have had a shot."

One other American designer was given a boost Monday - Mrs. Obama stepped out for her husband’s swearing-in ceremony wearing a navy silk coat in a checkered pattern and a matching dress by Thom Browne, an American designer known mainly for creating men's suits. The White House said the first lady's outfit was based on the style of a man's necktie.

More: Lessons in style from Michelle Obama

Speaking to CNN Monday, Brown said the nod from Michelle Obama was an honor – and an important boon to his two-year-old womenswear business.

"You can never predict life to happen this way," he said. "I'm just so fortunate, so honored, so proud that she chose mine."

Michelle Obama also wore J.Crew gloves and belt, earrings by Kathy Waterman, and blue suede boots from Reed Krakoff, the same designer who created the indigo shift dress and cardigan the first lady wore to the president's official swearing-in ceremony on Sunday.

Krakoff's namesake line sells shoes prices north of $500, but he is also the president of the American leathergoods purveyor Coach, whose shoes (and bags and wallets) are priced lower.

The White House said Monday that Mrs. Obama's swearing-in outfit and Jason Wu gown would head to the National Archives.

The Obama's two daughters were also decked out Monday – Malia in a lavender coat and royal blue dress from J.Crew, and Sasha wearing a purple jacket and dress from Kate Spade.

Filed under: Inauguration • Michelle Obama
soundoff (171 Responses)
  1. Leopold Stotch

    That is one hideous dress she's wearing.

    January 21, 2013 09:38 pm at 9:38 pm |
  2. ga.democrat

    Michelle Obama is stunning! What a beautiful and loving first couple. I have to say, I am loving Piers Morgan's coverage of the balls. He is having so much fun. He rocks!

    January 21, 2013 09:43 pm at 9:43 pm |
  3. Susan

    Dress was lovely but still disappointed. Choosing the same designer for both inaugurations? Remember the gowns will be on display and representing Americana for years. It's true young American designers need to be recognized but showcasing established designers to a new demographic is more deserving. I would have loved to see Mrs. Obama in Carolina Herrera or the recent modern designs by St. John's.

    January 21, 2013 09:44 pm at 9:44 pm |
  4. jiks

    gorgeous dress!

    January 21, 2013 09:45 pm at 9:45 pm |
  5. carole

    arm BARING, not "bearing"- she has great arms!

    January 21, 2013 09:46 pm at 9:46 pm |

    She can wear whatever she likes!!!! The dress was awesome. Most stylish FLOTUS since Jackie K.. You go Michelle!!!

    January 21, 2013 09:47 pm at 9:47 pm |
  7. MR

    Michelle looks as gorgeous as always! I can only hope they actually get to enjoy a little this special night!

    January 21, 2013 09:47 pm at 9:47 pm |
  8. Ed1

    Your tax dollars at work have fun while you can at our expense.

    January 21, 2013 10:02 pm at 10:02 pm |
  9. Lu

    According to his biography, Jason Wu is not American but Canadian/Taiwanese. Not that it matters but should be reported correctly.

    January 21, 2013 10:03 pm at 10:03 pm |
  10. Lu

    According to his bio, Jason Wu is not American but Canadian/Tawaineese.

    January 21, 2013 10:05 pm at 10:05 pm |
  11. Farmwife

    Absolutely beautiful! What an awesome couple! So very proud of our President and First Lady.

    January 21, 2013 10:08 pm at 10:08 pm |
  12. bobby

    cant beleev you cut stevie wonder bad move

    January 21, 2013 10:09 pm at 10:09 pm |
  13. Randy, San Francisco

    Michelle is a fashion trend setter. Jason Wu is at the top of his game as a fashion designer.

    January 21, 2013 10:11 pm at 10:11 pm |
  14. Bernice Krieger

    I am mighty proud of the First Couple! Mrs. Obama looked stunning, classy, and I am proud to be represented by this great President! Our options are more promising, as he expressed that we need more Math and "SCIENCE" teachers!!!!! That is what I am, as well as a proud American today!

    January 21, 2013 10:12 pm at 10:12 pm |
  15. Mary Stye

    Please stop making a big ado about the First Lady's beautiful dress. Jason Wu designed the dress,that's all. She didn't tell you people to disect what she wears and who designed it. Stop it and let her have her moment. You do have to find something to complaint about. At least she's choosing american. Shame on CNN

    January 21, 2013 10:20 pm at 10:20 pm |

    Beautiful, composed and self-confident First Lady in a very flattering, fashionable, and appropriate gown.
    I'm going to call it carnelian, but I'm sure we'll be hearing about it as coral (which it's not) or just red (which is about as unspecific as one could get).

    January 21, 2013 10:22 pm at 10:22 pm |
  17. thnanc

    I would have liked it if she was wearing it sitting on her living room couch watching Mitt Romney's inauguration.

    January 21, 2013 10:24 pm at 10:24 pm |
  18. LP

    Michelle Obama is a gorgeous woman, and she has amazing arms, and an impeccable sense of style, But it disturbs me somewhat that we still place so much emphasis on what a woman looks like and what she wears. Even the two Obama girls' outfits were scrutinized. Fifty years after MLK's speech about judging people not on the color of their skin but on the content of their character, we are still judging women by both their own skin and their second-skin of clothing. Is it going to take another fifty years?

    January 21, 2013 10:25 pm at 10:25 pm |
  19. gramann1940

    What a Beautiful Dress for Our First Lady. They make such a Beautiful Couple. There Love for each other just shines through everything. Good Luck President Obama and Our First Lady Michelle.

    January 21, 2013 10:28 pm at 10:28 pm |
  20. jeffery washington

    Wow that beautiful.!!

    January 21, 2013 10:29 pm at 10:29 pm |
  21. L.A. Rose

    I love that they are SO much in love. And the dress is stunning. Aren't all Dems just better looking? Her arms look great. Back to the gym tomorrow for me 🙂

    January 21, 2013 10:29 pm at 10:29 pm |
  22. Sandeep

    This couple rocks! The grace, love, affection, and overall joy demonstrated is so special.

    January 21, 2013 10:29 pm at 10:29 pm |
  23. Loathstheright

    And the low IQ, conservatives are, of course, going to show their unadulterated racism and slam her....I hope all of you reflex on what you have become.

    January 21, 2013 10:32 pm at 10:32 pm |
  24. cali girl

    From one bangs girl to another, The First Lady Nailed It!

    January 21, 2013 10:38 pm at 10:38 pm |
  25. mychaeltodd

    By the way Firts Lady Michelle Obama, did in fact give another designer a shout out- The First Lady also gave another American designer a break, she may have used Jason WU again, but First Lady Michelle paired the dress with a handmade diamond embellished ring by jewelry designer Kimberly McDonald. When President Obama spoke about STONEWALL, I was happily surprised, I have never heard a President ever mention anything about STONEWALL, I think our President is very intelligent, strong in his beliefs, and he honors the founders of this country. THE IS OUR MOMENT, what a day, I can't wait to see more executive orders....Lol

    January 21, 2013 10:41 pm at 10:41 pm |
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