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Tuesday
Mar312009

Anticipation Reaches Fever Pitch (Updated)

Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images

With the Obamas scheduled to touch down in London this evening, the eyes of the world are clearly on the outcome of the G20. Yet amidst heated political speculation, Europe’s press are nevertheless finding time to ask, alongside just about every fashionista on the planet: What will Mrs. O be wearing? 

Mrs. O has been a huge hit with the European fashion press. Her fashion-forward approach, her willingness to take risks with her style and her eagerness to embrace designers outside the mainstream have all been lauded by the critics. It's an mark of her extraordinary impact that designers like Maria Pinto, Thakoon, Jason Wu and Maria Cornejo who are not widely available in Europe are nevertheless regularly featured in the style press as faces to watch. Yet if coverage of her Inaugural wardrobe is any barometer, her every G20 ensemble will go far beyond the fashion pages to make front page news around the world.

Commentators usually more at home with foreign policy than frocks will be on the hunt for the “message” implicit in Mrs. O’s style choices. The major UK broadsheets have certainly found time, amidst policy analysis, to ponder the implications of the First Lady’s wardrobe. Among the other logistical hurdles posed by a Presidential visit, The Telegraph noted the challenge of packing “for a first lady who is also an international style icon,” while Rupert Cornwell writing in The Independent observes Mrs. O’s emergence as an international megastar:

"Two months into her husband's term, Michelle is a superstar in her own right. Her every appearance is a major news event; her every move is tracked by an army of bloggers. Her fashions, her hairdos, not to mention her choice of presidential pet, command headlines worthy of Jackie in Camelot's heyday."

Anticipation is further heightened by the fact that Mrs. O will not be the only political spouse on the international stage this week. Fashion journalists are feverishly anticipating the first meeting between Michelle Obama and France’s Premiere Dame, Carla Bruni-Sarkozy. While Madame Sarkozy will not be attending the G20, the ladies are scheduled to meet at a European summit on Saturday in what will almost certainly be a meeting of fashion minds. Avid First Lady watchers will remember Carla’s first state visit to Britain, in which the former supermodel dazzled in classic Dior.  Ms. Bruni aside, the world’s most influential political spouses will descend en masse on the UK this week but there is little doubt in anyone’s mind that Mrs. O’s star is shining brightest. To quote The Independent once more:

“The most important person on Mrs. Brown's guest list will be Michelle Obama, the "First Lady of First Ladies." Mrs. O has already scored a diplomatic triumph by securing a personal meeting with the Queen. On Wednesday afternoon – so long as the anarchists haven't forced the Royal Family into hiding – the world's most powerful couple will meet Prince Charles and Camilla before taking tea with Her Majesty at Buckingham Palace. Everyone else will have to content themselves with a brief handshake at an official reception.”

So once again, the eyes of the world are on Mrs. O’s wardrobe, yet we have no doubt she will pull off yet another fashion coup. With her sense of occasion, her eye for detail and her abilty to use her clothing to make subtle personal statements Mrs. O has mastered the fine art of fashion diplomacy. When Mrs. O met HRH will undoubtedly be one of the fashion moments of 2009.  Update: Mrs. O wears a Thakoon custom ivory tulle tweed coat with grosgrain piping. For additional photos, click here (thanks Edwina).

Reader Comments (103)

Squee, I love this look, so classic, this trip is going to be so exciting

Tuesday, March 31, 2009 at 9:12 AM | Unregistered CommenterDee

she looks so pretty
love her outfit

Tuesday, March 31, 2009 at 9:13 AM | Unregistered Commenterdanadevin85

I saw her this morning boarding the flight and thought to myself, "she looks elegant". The coat makes that outfit. And I see she continues with the medallions/broaches over the left chest. This should silence the critics for a little while at least.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009 at 9:14 AM | Unregistered Commenterprincetonscholar

The brooch and pearls together is a classy look.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009 at 9:14 AM | Unregistered CommenterBevi

Ok, I feel better about the outfit. It is elegant. The more I look at it, the more I like it. It's polished. No loose ribbons flying out or weird pins on her neck. I'm happy with this look. Only complain now is, I think it's kind of for a woman over 50. But that's only the coat. Looking at the picture, I'm almost certain that black dress is fitted to the high heavens, and that makes me very happy!

Tuesday, March 31, 2009 at 9:18 AM | Unregistered CommenterTess

She really looks great--especially for a "just arriving" look. I'm really looking forward to the dress she wears at the G-20 formal dinner. I hope she mixes it up and wears color or something form-fitting for that dinner. Go Mrs. O!

Tuesday, March 31, 2009 at 9:22 AM | Unregistered CommenterJanelle

Our First Couple is so awesome.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009 at 9:35 AM | Unregistered CommenterIVA

New Poll from Washington Post has Michelle's approval ratings at 76% nationwide. I'm sure this trip will bolster her approval even more. Judging from this tasteful outfit, my guess is that she is going to play it conservative.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009 at 9:37 AM | Unregistered Commenteredwina

I'm out of the loop here - did the Obamas leave this AM for UK and is this her travelling outfit? If so, it really is just a classic, would love to see more of her personal style.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009 at 9:38 AM | Unregistered CommenterMrs. P

What a nice picture to wake up to! I have to say, I was very nervous for her with all that attention and pressure, America expects her to be perfect. Thats a lot of pressure to carry every second. I have to say that she looks grest in this outfit, simple and sophisticated. This could've been appropriate to see the queen as well!
One of my favorite picture of the day is this one
http://www.daylife.com/photo/0fme8JIf6v8vd?q=michelle+obama
I hope that POTUS gives her all the encouragement amid all the pressure

Tuesday, March 31, 2009 at 9:41 AM | Unregistered CommenterMimi

She looks so very pretty and Stately. Nice balanced outfit. Look at our disguised and oh so fine President Obama, I am so glad these people are representing us.

I feel nervous for their first big trip, *tee hee, I love em so much....I am like a over protective daughter.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009 at 9:43 AM | Unregistered Commentertoi22

@ edwina,

With so many countries eyeing her, I think she'll play it conservative while abroad. And I understand that she may have to play it safe..if nothing else to help the US image as well as not risk the Prez' economic agenda.

I'm going to cut her some slack on this trip, b/c I know she'll be more daring and risky while here at home. But I do expect a nice colorful outfit while having tea with the Queen. I heard the Brits love their gardens. She'll have plenty to talk about, especially her 2 beehives recently placed on the South Lawn.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009 at 9:43 AM | Unregistered CommenterJanelle

*DISTINGUISHED* not disguised, lol....i fail at reviewing what i type.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009 at 9:47 AM | Unregistered Commentertoi22

sorry for the double comment Mrs. T-but this comment belong here about her beautiful ensemble:
Her outfit looks Toledo all over, very very pretty and stylish. Appropriate for the occasion. I loved the black white combo with the pearls, very pretty. She looked very lovely and happy walking and holding hands with her husband the President (who looked very well also). I’m so proud of how she carried herself today!
P.S. to the haters-According to the latest Wash Post Mrs. O’s favorables have risen to 76&-she’s doing something right!
http://voices.washingtonpost.com/behind-the-numbers/2009/03/michelle_obamas_formidable_fav.html

Tuesday, March 31, 2009 at 9:54 AM | Unregistered Commenterdavesoko1

Wow. What a knockout outfit. It's very First Lady-ish, but in a good way. If you look at some of the close-ups, the coat is actually fitted well to her body, and it has little flecks of tweed or something else that is very, very Michelle. Also, the graphic effect of the black and white is amazing in some of the far off shots. It photographs really well and I recommend going to yahoo or daylife to check out all the different shots of this outfit.

It's tempting to see this look as Michelle being conservative. I mean we know her. She is all about finding something new and quirky and kind of surprising. Her first choice for a traveling outfit might have been something more adventurous or unique. BUT there's actually a whole other side to Michelle's style that I love equally. And that's the side of her that really embraces clean lines and classic silhouettes, though always with a twist-- hence her love of the simple sleeveless sheath. So actually, I think this outfit is just another side of her personal style.

I also think, on this trip, she is really focused on getting it "right". She wants to be uncontroversial. That doesn't mean conservative though, because this dress has plenty of Oomph.

Anyway, I LOOOOVE it and hope we get to check out the part under the coat.

This week is going to be so much fun!!

Tuesday, March 31, 2009 at 9:54 AM | Unregistered CommenterJenna

The more I look at this outfit, the more I love it!. The material looks like the one at inauguration. IS this Isabel Toledo?

Tuesday, March 31, 2009 at 9:54 AM | Unregistered Commentermimi

I like, but do not love. It looks a little dowdy and conservative for her. Plus, I would have liked a little higher heels. BTW, it might be the official portrait dress under that coat.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009 at 10:00 AM | Unregistered CommenterJojo

Jojo, I read the official portrait dress by Michael Kors is actually long. A Blue version of that dress is being sold at bloomingdales

Tuesday, March 31, 2009 at 10:07 AM | Unregistered Commentermimi

good anaylsis by Jenna, the beauty is in the details. Yahoo has a closer look at the broach. Is it amyethst?
http://news.yahoo.com/nphotos/Michelle-Obama/ss/events/pl/050108michelleobama#photoViewer=/090331/ids_photos_ts/r1327429911.jpg

Tuesday, March 31, 2009 at 10:10 AM | Unregistered Commenteredwina

I've seen more photos and really love the black flecks in it and the fitted portion from the waist up. It really photographs well and looked stunning as they boarded AF1. I think though they'll be arriving in London at night. They're due to arrive 2:45pm EST. Not sure what time it will be there.

Too exciting. You would think I was going.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009 at 10:10 AM | Unregistered CommenterJanelle

What an exciting week this will be. Mrs O looks fantastic. She has a million dollar smile. Very elegant and classic. Can't wait to see the rest of this weeks fashions!

Tuesday, March 31, 2009 at 10:14 AM | Unregistered CommenterDonna No Shock

Jojo,

I feel the same. I like it, but it could have been even better. At the same time, however, I think for the occasion,it's a fine choice. I think she just wants to look "classy" and not make headlines, which is smart, but can be a letdown for us who want to see some super Michelle fashion. And that's not her official portrait dress, which was actually a long gown. Watching her walk in it, I can tell it's fitted, which is a good thing. It says to me that maybe this time the designers or someone actually fitted her clothes and tailored them to her body. Remember, during the inauguration, she never met the designers and clothes didn't fit well, hence her dragging around her white ball gown. Well, the way the coat and the dress fit, it looks like there may have been fittings, which is just essential. I have to see a better picture of her face,but the makeup looks dark, which I don't like on her. But I still need to see a better picture. Overall, I think it's a classic and feminine look. And it seems people expect you to tone it down for these official events in England. Carla Bruni looked downright boring in that outfit she wore to meet the queen. I think Michelle's outfit is fine in that I don't believe she wants to draw attention too much attention off of her husband.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009 at 10:16 AM | Unregistered CommenterTess

It is a superb outfit. It might be on the conservative side, but it is still absolutely smashing. What a First Lady!

Tuesday, March 31, 2009 at 10:22 AM | Unregistered CommenterEllen

Oh, I forgot to add, that I agree with the others about how it photographs. It seems her team now understand the concept of, not only fit, but how an outfit reads on tv and in pictures. I find black/white combos a bit boring, but this outfit photographs very well. The color contrast and the fit and tailoring are sharp. I didn't realize how fitted the top of the coat was until I really looked. When the wind blows, the skirt of the coat billows while the body is tight. It makes for a nice effect. So I'm feeling better about this because it seems her glam squad have learned not to make the same mistakes they made on Jan. 20.

I just hope to see some light shimmery makeup, a nice fitted dress that shows off her waist and curves, and some higher heels. Other than that, I think this is a safe and attractive and elegant choice. For the occasion, I think that's a success.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009 at 10:23 AM | Unregistered CommenterTess

My husband was about to send me to rehab for Mrs. O withdrawal. She looks lovely as I expected. I am so excited to see her throughout the week!

Tuesday, March 31, 2009 at 10:28 AM | Unregistered Commenterdlev

I agree Tess. I understand the conservatism, but it does photograph great. Kudos to her team! It needs to feel good and photograph well. The heels remain my only pet peeve. BTW, I think President O can stand his own in the attention department and that Mrs. O does not have to diminish herself for him to shine. Can't wait for the night look!

Tuesday, March 31, 2009 at 10:36 AM | Unregistered CommenterJojo

Guys,even though the general consensus here is that we like this outfit even though it's a bit conservative and a bit mature, it still is very "womanly". Hey, her first trip is to London - have you seen how the British dress! So this actually is a good balance of original Mrs.O and English chic.
I also suspect that this last week of hibernation with her girls at Camp David, has been one of careful research, pouring over history, gossip, articles and the like of all the "other" First Ladies she will encounter. I am both anxious and excited for her hoping that she'll shine a only Mrs.O can and KNOCK 'EM DEAD!!!

Tuesday, March 31, 2009 at 10:38 AM | Unregistered CommenterRocky

I'm really loving Michelle's make-up these days. Compare her look today with the one in the post below, in the red Maria Pinto when she and Obama first visited the White House.

Interesting story in today's Washington Post about the rise of Michelle Obama's poll numbers, especially among independents and Republicans. Her favorability rating is at 78%.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009 at 10:43 AM | Unregistered Commentergbs

she looks absolutely lovely; well rested and beautifully put together. the president looks quite handsome himself, he's definitely her best accessory. and mimi that photo is great, i love photos of the two of them being quietly affectionate like that.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009 at 10:44 AM | Unregistered Commentermoja31

Mrs. O's outfit really is very stately, classic elegance at its best...
I too am looking forward to this week. The Prez don't look to bad either....him and his fine self.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009 at 10:48 AM | Unregistered CommenterPerry

"When Mrs. O met HRH will undoubtedly be one of the fashion moments of 2009."

Does that refer to the Queen? If so, it should be Her Majesty.

I love this outfit. It's very elegant and classic. I'm sure the dress has a superb modern fit, and I love the idea of a travelling coat.

I am so looking forward to this trip. And I should also say that I love this blog. It's a daily destination for me.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009 at 10:54 AM | Unregistered CommenterLizzy

Very, very good catch Lizzy! The Queen is indeed Her Majesty not Her Highness....however, Mrs O is meeting Prince Charles as well-that's my excuse! ;)

Tuesday, March 31, 2009 at 10:58 AM | Unregistered CommenterMrs McD

Politico has a video of the Obama's departure. They both look great. Michelle gets 5 stars in my book for this striking look, the white coat photographs beautifully. It's retro in a non-dowdy way.
Any clues as to who the designer is?
http://www.politico.com/politico44/

Tuesday, March 31, 2009 at 10:58 AM | Unregistered Commenteredwina

This is a great photo posted by Donna No Shock on the BO blog:

http://www.daylife.com/photo/05VeeQA9LA4X6

Tuesday, March 31, 2009 at 11:25 AM | Unregistered Commentermeta

Huffingtonpost.com Style section has a slideshow, comparing Michelle's retro look to Jackie O. Nice close up of the jewelry and nubby texture of the coat. (I'd link it but with the moderation it's easier to go there on your own)

Tuesday, March 31, 2009 at 11:27 AM | Unregistered Commenteredwina

Jojo:

I agree. It's an okay look (not loving or hating).

I agree with you also that it needed a higher heel.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009 at 11:28 AM | Unregistered CommenterJersey Girl

moja31, I agree that the President is Michelle's best accessory. I love that they are so often holding hands. But even when he is not there, the smile in her eyes speaks of his presence in her life. It gives her the look of a well-loved and well-respected woman.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009 at 11:30 AM | Unregistered CommenterDebra

She looks great. A very classic and elegant look. I think London is 5 hours ahead (ofEST) this time of year. So that puts them there about 8pm London time.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009 at 11:37 AM | Unregistered CommenterAnn#1

WOW WHAT A PICTURE!! Stunning. Love the outfit, love that photo of him putting his arm around the small of her back.

NICE!!!!

And she had to walk on the grass in those little spike heels, that's a skill!

I must say that I am not in love with the hairdo, it's a little too bouffant like and ages her somewhat.

I'd love to see the texture of that coat.

Godspeed and good travelling to the President and First Lady. I'm sure we will be represented with grace, intelligence, and humor.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009 at 11:48 AM | Unregistered Commenterallison

I absolutely love this outfit. She looks fabulous and she and the President always look very good together. For the people who think its too conservative, I'm curious as to what type of outfit you think she should have worn instead.

I agree with Allison that I'm not loving the hairdo. I think when she does her hair like in the official portrait or even when she did the gardening or even going back to the convention, it makes her look younger and less matronly. In those looks the hair has more body at the top of her head which makes her face look younger.

But I still absolutely love her look here overall and I'm looking forward to the outfits from the rest of the trip

Tuesday, March 31, 2009 at 12:06 PM | Unregistered CommenterToni

Nice look, very appropriate for the occasion. As per your earlier post I too would love to see the red dress and that black and tan set pulled out for this trip.

I would also love to hear her a Prince Charles when they meet, you know that organic gardening will be a topic of interest.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009 at 12:19 PM | Unregistered CommenterJules

Jojo, I agree, that may be the Michael Kors dress from the official portrait. I read that it was a modified (shorter) version of the blue one from the runway. Also, it would be a perfect dress to travel in -- sleeveless, classic and a jersey material that won't wrinkle during those hours on the plane.

I think her hair has been done in anticipation of that trip, as well. It's bound to lose volume during the flight, so all the more reason to make it more 'bouffant' than usual this morning. Having done transcontinental flights a few times myself, I know all too well how hard it is to look good upon arrival. And she's got the world watching her!

Tuesday, March 31, 2009 at 12:23 PM | Unregistered CommenterChicagoan

How long a flight is it to London? I wonder if she would stay in her "dress" clothes the entire time, or would she do what I would do -- dress up for the photo walking to the plane, get inside, immediately change into sweats and take a nap, re-dress for the arrival.

This is why Mrs. O is a style icon and I most decidedly am not.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009 at 12:47 PM | Unregistered CommenterChristina

Agree Chicago on the loss of volume during flight...good point. AND Christina I was also wondering if she is cuddled up in sweats right now relaxing with a cup of tea and a copy of the protocol manual!

Tuesday, March 31, 2009 at 12:50 PM | Unregistered Commenterallison

Can't wait for the fashion show on Saturday when MO meets with CB. I figure both ladies will probably wear simple understated clothes, but one will surely shine over the other. Funny, I don't think I'm really even interested in the G-20 summit .....can't they just put on a fashion show and call it a day.

Good luck MO, the world is watching

Tuesday, March 31, 2009 at 1:07 PM | Unregistered Commenterriver rush

I too thought this was safe for Mrs. O....she is usually more daring

but better safe on her first trip to Europe as first lady than anything

ps: @ christian, I too was wondering if she'll change when she comes off the plane

omg, the anticipation is really at a fever pitch, I CANNOT WAIT FOR THIS ENTIRE WEEK (and at the same time, I hope it goes by slowly so it does not end so soon)...lol

Tuesday, March 31, 2009 at 1:09 PM | Unregistered CommenterLayo G

Yes, the hair is lacking, but I read that she's taking her hairstylist with her. So hopefully, he's getting his flat iron on, because the hair is not done. I presume he'll do her hair as their landing in London.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009 at 1:13 PM | Unregistered CommenterTess

Mrs O's ensemble has "Coco Chanel" written all over it, dont expect nothing less from this World Fashion Icon.
One can only imagine the racks of designer clothes aboard Airforce 1.
Mrs O is about to take on her biggest role yet, educating the world on how classy black women execute fierce style - Gosh I love this woman!
Its 6:30pm in London now.....we are counting down.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009 at 1:32 PM | Unregistered CommenterLucypearl

Huffpost has a little slideshow comparing Michelle's outfit today to Jackie O's on a similar trip. Jackie wore a beautifully fitted white coat with wide sleeves and big buttons. It was a classic look, but if you compare it to Michelle's beautiful interpretation from today, it gets pretty hard to call Michelle "conservative". So I think it's all relative.

Still, and I think this is the issue, we can all imagine Laura Bush wearing this exact same outfit, which is almost IMPOSSIBLE with almost anything else Michelle ever wears. In fact, having sat for a minute thinking about it, the only other outfit you could say that about might be the Isabel Toledo inauguration number. And even that one is a stretch because of the inventive color. So yeah, this is the first time she wore something that would be universally liked --similar to how Laura dressed. But...gosh would we have it any other way? This trip is such a big moment. It simply is not the time for Michelle to dazzle the fashion geeks with some inventive detail. Sticking close to classics and being "safe" is exactly what I would hope she will do. She certainly looks amazing, and that's what matters. When she comes back home she can continue being her fashion-forward self.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009 at 1:49 PM | Unregistered CommenterJenna

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