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. Lise

    Michelle is gorgeous ..She looks like she lost weight ..Don't loose any more

    January 21, 2013 10:45 pm at 10:45 pm |
  2. Yrob

    @Van Jones, since SHE is the 1st Lady SHE can choose whatever gown SHE wants.

    January 21, 2013 10:46 pm at 10:46 pm |
  3. Beenthere

    Beautiful couple; beautiful dress; gracious and loving. it is nice to feel proud of the leaders of the USA!

    January 21, 2013 10:46 pm at 10:46 pm |
  4. Robbie

    The red dress is gorgeous but would have been nice to see her wear a new up-and-coming young American designer. Same with her shoe selection. Jimmy Choo is overmarketed and British. Practice what you preach First Lady...supporting young American designers. Oh well, enjoy the celebration.

    January 21, 2013 10:48 pm at 10:48 pm |
  5. a little sad

    @ Susan

    "It's true young American designers need to be recognized but showcasing established designers to a new demographic is more deserving."

    I understand the criticism that maybe she could have given a shot to a different young designer, but established designers are not in need of additional exposure. They get it through Vogue, the various award shows, etc.

    BTW she looked terrific, and for her last inaugural ball, she has every right to choose a dress just because it's the one she looks best in.

    January 21, 2013 10:54 pm at 10:54 pm |
  6. mattie

    yes i agree that it was just lovely . she is a very posed lady and her and her husband and family is deserving for every joy the day and night and future brings them

    January 21, 2013 10:58 pm at 10:58 pm |
  7. Dawn

    I would love to see her have a disabled husband, a child with Discoid Lupus & her other child needing another surgery, being the wife & mother that has to work in a state prison as a corrections officer on second shift, so she won't see her family hardly at all, because its the best job around, and then see her walking around in clothes that cost more than my car, that by the way is running on its last leg. Please tell me she would be able to cope with that....don't think she would last a day in my shoes!!!!!!

    January 21, 2013 10:58 pm at 10:58 pm |
  8. Keith

    She looks just Wow!! i

    January 21, 2013 11:01 pm at 11:01 pm |
  9. Michelle

    @ Susan- I agree. ST John's would of been perfect and elegant for the occasion.

    January 21, 2013 11:03 pm at 11:03 pm |
  10. hearmenow

    Great dress on a beautiful first lady! Really stunning, timeless choice for the ages.

    January 21, 2013 11:09 pm at 11:09 pm |
  11. MaryM

    Beautiful, Michelle looks absolutely stunning

    January 21, 2013 11:11 pm at 11:11 pm |
  12. cj

    Glad to see my tax dollars are paying for their designer clothes. I get they have to look professional....but I'd be more impressed by cheap jeans and a t-shirt.

    January 21, 2013 11:14 pm at 11:14 pm |
  13. sherey

    Mrs. Obama's entire inauguration wardrobe choices were wonderful and she looked stunning! One of America's most beautiful families. I am savoring these moments as they will not come our way again.

    January 21, 2013 11:19 pm at 11:19 pm |
  14. Anonymous

    She's so out of touch with everyday Americans! You know how much that dress must cost? The average middle class American can't afford that. Shame on her!

    January 21, 2013 11:23 pm at 11:23 pm |
  15. Bryan

    Love how the First Lady dresses in what she likes and suits her style......She looks great in her inaugural gown!

    January 21, 2013 11:34 pm at 11:34 pm |
  16. abbydelabbey

    Wow! Even my husband took note (and for him to notice that says something!) She looked absolutely stunning,

    January 21, 2013 11:55 pm at 11:55 pm |
  17. Jan

    She looks amazing.

    January 21, 2013 11:59 pm at 11:59 pm |
  18. tom

    @carole, good catch!

    January 22, 2013 12:04 am at 12:04 am |
  19. TP

    Beautiful!! She looked so amazing!! I am sorry but so what if she loves one designer....she likes who she likes!! Way to go Michelle!!

    January 22, 2013 12:06 am at 12:06 am |
  20. ThinkAgain

    Wow – simply stunning!!

    January 22, 2013 12:11 am at 12:11 am |
  21. Alex

    Dress was awful! She doesn't have a taste of the First Lady at all!
    Very pity!

    January 22, 2013 12:26 am at 12:26 am |
  22. Thinkergal

    She looked fabulous, of course. Poor Laura Bush and her dowdy "mother of the bride" dresses.

    January 22, 2013 12:28 am at 12:28 am |
  23. noname

    Who cares what she wore. She still lacked manners during dinner. Allegedly rolling her eyes at Boehner.

    January 22, 2013 12:31 am at 12:31 am |
  24. charlie

    all the dresses are stunning. But she makes them look ugly

    January 22, 2013 12:51 am at 12:51 am |
  25. Dee

    HELLO!? Jason Wu is a Taiwanese-CANADIAN who works out of New York. Get it right people.

    January 22, 2013 12:59 am at 12:59 am |
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