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Thursday
Apr232009

Pleats and Pearls 

White House Photo / Samantha Appleton

What a tremendously busy day for Mrs. O! It seems the First Lady also hosted Jordan's Queen Rania in the Yellow Oval Room at the White House this afternoon. First Lady Mrs. O wears a pleated taupe chiffon dress, last seen for a daytime event during the Democratic National Convention. See our earlier post here. This dress is one that eludes us. Truth be told, we've spent an embarrassing amount of time trying to identify it. We've wondered if the March issue of Vogue perhaps held a clue.

In his interview with Mrs. O, the great Andre Leon Talley wrote, "The day of our interview at the Hay-Adams, she wears a soft, silk-crepe accordion-pleat dress by 34-year-old Thakoon Panichgul." If only he had hinted at the color!

Update: The dress has been confirmed as Rodarte! The dress is from the Mulleavy sisters' Fall Winter 2007 collection. It is 100% linen, with a feather bow belt. An additional image of the dress can be seen here. Mrs. O also wears a trio of glass pearl necklaces by Erickson Beamon, from their "Peace at Last" collection. The necklaces can be seen in detail, here.

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Reader Comments (171)

I love the dress and I love the pic!

I was like, "who's Rodarte?" So I went to the website, and wow! Very innovative! Mrs. O has one of the most eclectic wardrobes I have ever seen!!!!!!!!!!

Friday, April 24, 2009 at 3:25 PM | Unregistered CommenterAmerican-n-Rome

One thing I've noticed this year--in clothing stores--is the abundance of sleeveless dresses! It is difficult to even find something with sleeves...I'm sure it's due to Mrs. Obama. Have you noticed that, too?

Friday, April 24, 2009 at 3:31 PM | Unregistered CommenterNancy

Here's the dress: http://www.polyvore.com/rodarte_pleated_linen_dress/thing?id=825324

And, Trudy, I've been snickering out loud from the image you planted in my mind of Rep. Pence with a bow on his head! Girl friend was FIERCE!

Friday, April 24, 2009 at 3:48 PM | Unregistered CommenterHyde Parker

Lily found the dress. It is Bottega Veneta, Spring 2008. #35 (see her link up the thread).

Rodarte used some pleats in 2006, but they don't do classic dresses like this one. And it is highly unlikely that Mrs. O would be wearing a Spring 2006 dress even last summer let alone now.

Friday, April 24, 2009 at 3:57 PM | Unregistered CommenterBeeGee

Wow, that's so cool that she wears Rodarte. They're so unconventional. Most of there shows are like a deconstructed, goth, ballet princess. I know that's a weird explanation, but they are very avant-garde in that way. I'm not all that surprised though since it is listed as one of the main designers Ikram holds.
Here's some video of their shows:
http://www.style.com/video/fashion-shows-by-designer/rodarte/1896809774

Friday, April 24, 2009 at 4:05 PM | Unregistered CommenterAri

I saw the Bottega Veneta dress. The hem is entirely different from the Rodarte hem. You may need to go to the White House site to see it in the high res photo, but this hem is frayed and sheer, just as the Rodarte's is. The Bottega Veneta's is solid and finished.

Friday, April 24, 2009 at 4:13 PM | Unregistered CommenterHyde Parker

it is rodarte..here is a picture of a model wearing the dress on the runway..
http://makeupbag(dot)net/wp-content/uploads/2007/02/rodarte2(dot)jpg
BTW..Rodarte is only sold at one place in chicago..

Ikaram
:)

Friday, April 24, 2009 at 4:15 PM | Unregistered Commenterncgirl

BeeGee,
I am curious to why Michelle would not be wearing a Spring 2006 dress. I am sure she has clothes in her closet that are even older than that.

Does anyone have a link to the Rodarte dress?

Friday, April 24, 2009 at 4:42 PM | Unregistered CommenterLeah D

Considering that fabric is pretty easy to change, I don't think that the fact that this dress is in a different fabric rules Bottega Veneta out. But Mrs. T says it's Rodarte, and of course she has great sources.

Friday, April 24, 2009 at 4:52 PM | Unregistered CommenterChristina

Looked at White House photo in high resolution. This dress is not the silk crepe de chine dress she wore when she met with Vogue's Andre Leon Talley at the Hay Adams Hotel. The fabric here appears to be something like handkerchief linen or some other type of linen fabric. See how crisp the pleats are at her lower back, and yes, it appears to have been fringed at the hem. Not the Bottega Veneto silk dress.

Friday, April 24, 2009 at 4:55 PM | Unregistered CommenterBeeGee
Friday, April 24, 2009 at 4:59 PM | Unregistered CommenterBeeGee

Here's the description of the dress that should have accompanied my last post:

"Rodarte Pleated linen dress - £1,580.00 Beige pleated linen dress. Frayed edges sit on the round neck and armholes. The pleats run vertically covering the dress. A hook fastening belt sits high on the waist with a feather floral detail on the front and a trim of grey. The hemline falls below the knee, again with a frayed edge. Popper fastenings run down the left hand side. Beige silk under slip. .... 100% Linen"

Friday, April 24, 2009 at 5:03 PM | Unregistered CommenterBeeGee

Mrs. O wears this Rodarte very well--especially with the pearls and then the gold-like cardigan at the DNC. The outfit does nothing for me on a runway model or hanger. I love that Michelle has more curves (like me) and great mocha skin to go against the fabric color. I would love to be a fly on the wall when she's going through the line of clothes that come from Ikram's boutique and what she must be thinking when she makes her choices. She's a very interesting First Lady indeed!

Friday, April 24, 2009 at 5:22 PM | Unregistered CommenterJanelle

Hello! This was quite a fun development, wasn't it!? I completely see the similarity to the Bottega Veneta but we've absolutely confirmed it as Rodarte. Also, if you look at the DNC photos, Mrs. O was wearing the accompanying feather belt.

Friday, April 24, 2009 at 5:22 PM | Unregistered CommenterMrs. T

Wow, great job everyone! That's linen? Man, I wish I had folks working for me; me + linen + pleats = one hot wrinkled-up mess.

Friday, April 24, 2009 at 5:24 PM | Unregistered CommenterChristina

@ Christina,

LOL! My body (behind) can destroy linen with a quickness so I stay far away from it...that is until I can get some help with it. More power to FLOTUS.

Friday, April 24, 2009 at 5:31 PM | Unregistered CommenterJanelle

The dress she's wearing looks much more refined than the Rodarte number. I'm tempted to disagree and go with Bottega Veneta.

Friday, April 24, 2009 at 5:35 PM | Unregistered Commenterdlev

Re the comments on wrinkling, in the DNC photo I notice this fabric has a slight sheen. I'm wondering if it is a linen voile. Finer than linen, it often has faint sheen, drapes beautifully, and doesn't wrinkle as badly.

Friday, April 24, 2009 at 5:35 PM | Unregistered CommenterBeeGee

The illustration of the Rodarte dress that I linked to was not very good. This dress retailed at about US$3000 last summer. It is undoubtedly very refined.

Friday, April 24, 2009 at 5:39 PM | Unregistered CommenterBeeGee

Can't add anything to what's already been said. She looks beautiful, love it.

Friday, April 24, 2009 at 5:41 PM | Unregistered CommenterEmily

BTW, Madame Secretary Clinton did a phenomenal job defending President Obama's diplomatic approach to Hugo Chavez.

Friday, April 24, 2009 at 5:43 PM | Unregistered Commenterdlev

From the DNC posting, the 2nd photo clearly shows feather belt:
http://www.mrs-o.org/?p=582

The same feather belt seen with the Rodarte dress here:
http://www.polyvore.com/cgi/set?id=795308

Besides the visual support, the press representative for Rodarte has 100% confirmed it is their dress.

Friday, April 24, 2009 at 5:46 PM | Unregistered CommenterMrs. T

OK. I have found The Dress - a good photo on a model - it was in Rodarte's Fall 2007 ready-to-wear collection. #5 in the slideshow of 28 photos. Whew!

http://www.style.com/fashionshows/review/F2007RTW-RODARTE

Friday, April 24, 2009 at 5:54 PM | Unregistered CommenterBeeGee

On the subject of mystery pleats, however, we still don't know who's responsible for these gems:

http://thecaucus.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/04/16/michelle-obama-charms-colbert/?hp

http://picasaweb.google.com/writezach/MichelleEnPuertoRicoPrimerDia#5201064889013690306

I had at one point thought the three dresses were of the same design, but different colors. I believe that's true of the two linked to above - based on the wider neckline and placement of the banding at the waist - but they differ slightly from the Rodarte dress. Any thoughts?

Friday, April 24, 2009 at 6:01 PM | Unregistered CommenterMrs. T

Mrs. T,
Regarding the 'earlier post' link you put in the article above.
I looked at the 'azure blue' in the Steven Colbert video and that one isn't the same version. If you stop the video at 4:47 you can tell that the azure blue is a top and skirt and the skit is not pleated. Also the neckline is a bit different than the mushroom colored dress.

Just thought I'd toss that out there so that everyone didn't think that all three (mushroom, pink, blue) were the same.

Friday, April 24, 2009 at 6:05 PM | Unregistered CommenterLeah D

Hahaha!
I guess I should have typed faster.
I now see Mrs. T's comment.

Friday, April 24, 2009 at 6:07 PM | Unregistered CommenterLeah D

The purple'ish-pink is also a top and skirt. The shirt looks straight - you can tell where the top and skirt meet on the left side.

So it appears that all three (mushroom, azure blue, pink) are all different.

Friday, April 24, 2009 at 6:10 PM | Unregistered CommenterLeah D

OK. One more post and then I'm out of here.

The teal is different from the taupe/cafe au lait Rodarte pleated linen. Wider neckline, fuller skirt. Other differences. I'm wondering if it is the same teal Jason Wu (? Help me if my memory has failed) dress she wore in London under the controversial patchwork sweater. ??

The cerise is very different. Seems to be a top with shirring rather than pleating, some sort of a peplum, in a semi-sheer fabric. The skirt, which appears to be straight, is a different fabric. Not a clue about its originator. Could it be a sheer overblouse over a sheath dress?

Friday, April 24, 2009 at 6:15 PM | Unregistered CommenterBeeGee

I was wrong. Looked again. The cerise dress is a sheer slightly pleated top over a solid base. May be all one piece with the sheer top tiered over the solid dress underneath.

Bye.

Friday, April 24, 2009 at 6:19 PM | Unregistered CommenterBeeGee

BeeGee,
Nope. The dress under the sweater in London was a full skirt/gathered.
The azure blue on Steven Colbert is flat/straight.

Friday, April 24, 2009 at 6:21 PM | Unregistered CommenterLeah D

I'm out-a-here too.
Every time I go look at something and come back and to type I'm late! Hahaha!

Friday, April 24, 2009 at 6:23 PM | Unregistered CommenterLeah D

Christina: Mara, I’m curious, what outfit of Mrs. O’s have you liked? I mean, better than just “OK.” I don’t remember you saying much positive about any of them, but I might have just forgotten.

@ Christina: As I've said here before, I've liked her in just about every Maria Pinto outfit that she's worn. More recently, I liked the yellow dress she wore getting off the plane in London, the black/white dress she wore to the dinner in London (without the sweater), and the black dress that she wore to the event in Germany. I also like the dress in her official portrait. There have been a few others, but those are the one off the top of my head.

I'll say it again: Mrs. Obama needs Pinto back in her wardrobe!

Friday, April 24, 2009 at 10:48 PM | Unregistered CommenterMara

C: By the way Christina, I’m sort of relieved to find that I’m not alone in thinking that Mara seems to have very few good things to say about Mrs O… And her ever effusive praise of everyone else in photo-ops featuring the first lady, make her rather less than kind and seemingly endless digs at the the first lady all the more curious…"

I'm allowed to state my opinion like anyone else. If I don't like an outfit, I say so. If I like an outfit, I say so. Just because I don't like every outfit and am not obsessed with Mrs. Obama like some commenters, doesn't mean that I am getting "digs" at her. You confuse my disagreement with most of Mrs. Obama's fashion style with dislike of the woman, which is ridiculous. I admire Mrs. Obama, which is why I think she can and should step up her fashion game. Thankfully, she has evolved in her fashion game and will continue to do so.

Are diverse opinions not allowed here, and everyone has to agree with each other? Boring.

Friday, April 24, 2009 at 10:59 PM | Unregistered CommenterMara

You ladies are really good at tracking down her designers. WOW.

Mrs. T - I hadn't seen the picture of Mrs. O in the pink before, thanks for posting. Very beautiful. I am looking forward to her dressing for the spring and summer - I'm sure she'll be in many dresses and skirts, which are fun.

Friday, April 24, 2009 at 11:50 PM | Unregistered CommenterIVA

Thanks Mara -- for the answer and the chastisement (seriously.)

(Interestingly enough, we disagree a bit about the black and white dress minus the cardigan! I thought it was kinda plain and "whatever" in photos, though I bet in person it was stunning)

It is difficult -- I will admit that I have a whole lot of complicated emotions surrounding Mrs. O that can make me defensive on her behalf. It's hard for me to see her as just another first lady, when there's such much cultural and historical import to seeing a woman like her on a world stage. I may not like an outfit and I'll express that, but I always see it as part of a larger package and I'm sure that modifies my views. I don't just judge her like I might judge, say, Beyonce. I'm sure those are some themes Mrs. T will explore in her book; I'll be interested in reading others' thoughts on this.

But other people are allowed to just see her as a person in a "fashion game" and judge her by that standard, without getting into mitigating factors. I need to be better about understanding that.

Saturday, April 25, 2009 at 6:09 AM | Unregistered CommenterChristina

Is it just me, or does the homepage take a very long time to load?

Saturday, April 25, 2009 at 6:19 AM | Unregistered Commentertrudy

An interesting article by the NY Times about our Mrs. O. It talks about how she is in control of her image - including her wardrobe and what she chooses to wear for mag covers. I think many fashion critics are experiencing the same thing that some of the mag editors mentioned in this article have experienced. They critique and make suggestions, but at the end of the day, she wears what she wants to wear whether they like it or not. The article also laments the fact that we haven't been able to see the policy-side of Mrs. O given her Ivy League education and career background. I personally think she is somewhat involved but just prefers to work behind the scenes when it comes to that kind of stuff.

www(dot)nytimes(dot)com/2009/04/25/us/politics/25michelle(dot)html?pagewanted=1&_r=1&em

Saturday, April 25, 2009 at 7:38 AM | Unregistered CommenterAmerican-n-Rome

There is a slide show that accompanies the NY Times article I mentioned above. Here's a link to the slide show and one of the captions:

www(dot)nytimes(dot)com/slideshow/2009/04/25/us/politics/20090425MICHELLE_index(dot)html

"Mrs. Obama has pointedly controlled her look on the covers of More, Vogue, Essence and People magazines. In her magazine photo shoots, she insisted on appearing the way that she sees herself -- as a professional woman, not a celebrity -- with her own sense of style. She wears her own clothes whether they come from J. Crew, Talbots or the designer Jason Wu."

Saturday, April 25, 2009 at 7:52 AM | Unregistered CommenterAmerican-n-Rome

@ American-n-Rome,

Thanks for that great NY Times link to the article/photos. I think that because of what happened to Michelle during the campaign, she will be behind the scenes as far as policy issues are concerned--for now. But if the Prez is re-elected, I promise you, Michelle will be more visible on issues. Plus the Obama girls will be older and more settled. She has to be so careful as the first AA First Lady and I don't blame her to tread carefully. Laura Bush was practically mute until the very end of 8 years where she championed the abuse on women in Afganistan. I remember on The View, Mrs. O said she's "taking cues" from Laura Bush--but I don't think she'll wait that long.

I love coming to this site on Mrs. O's fashion, but I lament sometimes wanting to know what's going on in her great mind. But she's building goodwill right now, and she's not faking it. She is a mother and is really enjoying and embracing what she's doing now but I know in time, whether the President is re-elected or not, the policy side of Michelle will reemerge from the East Wing. I just think during the campaign, people only saw her giving powerful speeches at rallies and didn't see the whole of her--wife, mother, friend.

Saturday, April 25, 2009 at 9:17 AM | Unregistered CommenterJanelle

Also meant to add that although feminists and others like me would love to hear more of Michelle on policy issues, knowing that she's in control of her message and image no matter what critics and fashion editors may want her to do, lets me know she is in control of herself--her staff, is strong-willed, and a spine of steel like her husband.

Saturday, April 25, 2009 at 9:25 AM | Unregistered CommenterJanelle

Whilst I adore this style of dress on Mrs O, I feel the colour is a little off especially on a matte fabric but aside from that, I'm sure she looks great especially with the necklace.

Saturday, April 25, 2009 at 10:14 AM | Unregistered CommenterCoutureCoco

@trudy: the site loads quickly for me.

@Janelle: I regret to say I don't think Michelle will ever become a "policy person." I regret it, because I do think that she would add a very valuable perspective. However, I think that during the election, we saw a very ugly side of people when it came to her. I don't think we can forget that people were accusing her of hating America, calling white people "Whitey," saying that she wrote a white-hating paper as her final thesis at Princeton, that she ordered lobster and caviar at a hotel during a campaign stop, that she got all her jobs through affirmative action...not too long ago a commentator suggested that she might be "Stokeley Carmichael in a dress." All the polling of her popularity, while cute and I'm glad she's so popular, is masking the media's true intent: They want to able to spot the moment when people will turn on Michelle.

I do think that if she gets too outspoken and too far outside the roles of happy daughter, pretty wife, and loving mother, people will start that "angry black b*tch" vibe up quickly. Enemies are waiting, and it's sad, and I think the Obamas know that, and I don't think they're going to risk it. Either now, or eight years from now. I hope I'm wrong, but that's the way I see it.

That's why I laugh to myself about these dumb designers and their complaints about Ikram. Do they realize that this has nothing to do with wearing cardigans to meet the darn Queen? Cardigans are the least of Michelle's concerns. Do they think that Michelle Obama is just any other celebrity clothes rack for them? I am sure she has HUGE concerns about whom she associates with, and whom she lets into her confidence. Ikram can start selling burlap bags with ropes for belts, and I bet Mrs. O will still shop there, because Ikram has proven that she will not take advantage of Mrs. O's confidence.

Saturday, April 25, 2009 at 10:14 AM | Unregistered CommenterChristina

@ Christina--enjoyed your thoughts.

I didn't phrase it right, but Michelle has always said she has no interest in sitting down in a room and crafting policy issues personally. But I do think she will slowly appear much later on supporting more policy issues from her husband while he's in office. Once he's out of office, I'm sure she will use her well-deserved leverage for a lot of her own issues and supporting the Democratic platform as well as women issues. Her clout is huge already.

And boy do I agree with everything you said about enemies wanting to pounce. I also think the NY Times article may have been written as a way to "push" Michelle out there more on issues (when we already know she can't be pushed), to get her to make a misstep where rethuglicans can loop her words 24 hours a day. I guess folks will keep trying to get at her and will fail miserably. She's wised up to the game they're playing.

On Ikram, so true. It's more than about the clothes in her boutique. It's friendship and discretion built over many years--you can't buy that and Michelle has to watch her back like no other. And you know what I loved about the cardigan she wore to meet the Queen? She did her research; the Queen used to dress that way when she was younger and loves the "English country cardigan" look. They wrote about it extensively in the UK and that's one of the reasons why the Queen took to Michelle regardless of the garbarge published here in the US.

Saturday, April 25, 2009 at 10:33 AM | Unregistered CommenterJanelle

I've nevered followed a story or subject in the media quite as closely as this one. And I've been fascinated to see how the media churns and concocts things.

It's an interesting read. I wish they would have also considered:
#1 Why is Michelle Obama's focus on domesticity considered selling herself short? I think that's a much more interesting question to ask ourselves.
#2 We haven't hit 100 days, have we? Is it a bit premature to assume that she's done defining her role?

Saturday, April 25, 2009 at 10:58 AM | Unregistered CommenterMrs. T

Mrs. T,

I would love a thread highlighting this NY Times article/photos and the two questions you asked. It would be great to hear the Mrs. O community weighing in on this. I too am so fascinated on this story, I haven't even done my Saturday chores yet!

Personally, I love a whole woman who loves to work outside the home, in the home or whatever she wants to do--it's about choice isn't it? I just think politics make it so difficult to be all those things at once. The media lives on labelling people. And I think Michelle has only begun with defining herself. I love that she is intelligent, fashionable, a good mother, wife, etc....it's a shame some people cannot believe you can be all those things or marginalize you so people will be afraid of you. But as a professional AA woman, I have been fighting these issues my whole life...ok going to shut up now and get some work done.

Saturday, April 25, 2009 at 11:32 AM | Unregistered CommenterJanelle

Those are great questions, Mrs. T.

I think, to your second point, that some of that might be the nature of a media beast right now. There's such a premium on speed, and on trying to be "first" and not necessarily best. No one wants to get beaten. Everyone is trying to extrapolate the "final answer' from the barest shreds of information. It does a disservice both to the subject of an article and to the journalists, because it gives too much weight to little stuff. "Oh my god, she touched the Queen, WHAT COULD IT ALL MEAN?????" "She's planting a garden, WHAT COULD IT ALL MEAN???" There's too much of that.

As for Michelle's supposed current focus on domesticity, I feel like I've been hearing concerns about that ever since her speech at the DNC. Those who want "more" from Michelle, while well-intentioned, may not realize that even the image of a black woman as "merely" a good wife and mother is something new for some people in the country. They want her to go all out without realizing that she is already breaking some long-held stereotypes.

And actually, if you want to get REALLY global, I feel like there were really interesting issues stirred up around Hillary Clinton, Michelle Obama and Sarah Palin last year. Each one of those women touched off some really deep stuff that was lurking under the surface regarding our feelings about motherhood, femininity, women in power, race...this election was a huge eye-opener for me in that regard. Our struggles with the "proper" roles for women do not start or end with Michelle, that's for sure.

Saturday, April 25, 2009 at 11:42 AM | Unregistered CommenterChristina

Sure, no one will influence Mrs O on what she has to wear for some special events but let me say that i am a bit tired of seeing her with bare arms, cartigans and belt.
SHe can wear a dress with a very short sleeve as well for a change if being a bare arms is "a must "for her.

Some people get very wounded but this is site is made of.
i share Mara's point of view above.

Saturday, April 25, 2009 at 11:52 AM | Unregistered CommenterIsalo

I think that the idea of defining Michelle as to whom she is and what she stands for after only 100 days as FLOTUS is premature and unfair. We are far too quick to judge her based on 3 months in her role.

She has taken up some great projects that mean a great deal to her: encouraging people to eat healthy food, inspiring children to do their best, setting herself up as an example of a woman who exhibits strength, motivation, and ambition, providing comfort and support to military families, visiting federal agencies and thanking employees for their hard work and dedication, and promoting service and service learning. That's a pretty tall order for such a small amount of time, and that is an incomplete list to boot.

My dream is Michelle will have 8 full years to continue her outstanding work, and, of course, keep us entertained with her sartorial choices!

Saturday, April 25, 2009 at 12:00 PM | Unregistered CommenterBevi

And here we have an object lesson in why Michelle will probably continue to control her image very closely, and why I believe it will remain essentially domestic. We've moved on to start talking about some more thoughtful issues, but there's always someone who is worked up about sleeves. SLEEVES.

Sigh.

If she stirs up this much controversy with bare arms, I am sure she is going to stay out of policy matters. Why bother? Why deal with the noise? I sure wouldn't. It just wouldn't be worth it to me.

Saturday, April 25, 2009 at 12:01 PM | Unregistered CommenterChristina

Mrs. Obama looks her best when she dresses with simple, chic, elegant and uncomplicated wardrobe pieces - like the blanck dress in her Europe trip, the elegant dress at the Governor's dinner and this one with the Queen of Jordan.

Saturday, April 25, 2009 at 12:23 PM | Unregistered CommenterMJMR

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