Mrs-O.com is a blog dedicated to chronicling the fashion and style of First Lady Michelle Obama. Founded September 2008. 



What Mamie Wore

Photo courtesy of the Truman Library


As the excited speculation builds over Mrs. O’s Inaugural Ball gown, we continue with our historical tour of past First Ladies and their Inaugural costumes.


On January 20, 1953, Mamie Doud Eisenhower, the 34th First Lady, created a fashion sensation with her decidedly pretty-in-pink presence at the Inaugural Ball. Designed by Nettie Rosenstein of New York City, whose work can be seen in the Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum, Mrs. Eisenhower's gown was made of pink peau de soie and lavishly encrusted with 2,000 pink rhinestones. It featured an off-the-shoulder neckline and the deep V of the bodice ended in a Renaissance waist. The skirt of the gown was full and flowed out from the fitted waistline. Mrs. Eisenhower wore a three-strand pearl choker she had commissioned from Trifari, maker of some of the finest costume jewelry of the time. Matching pink opera gloves completed the look.


Mrs. Eisenhower's style was influential during her husband’s two Presidential terms. “Mamie pink” or “First Lady pink” became an iconic color of the 1950s and the fitted bodice and full skirt silhouette Mrs. Eisenhower favored (which was first shown in Dior’s “The New Look” in 1947) was readily adapted in both day dresses and evening wear of that decade. Her costume jewelry choice proved so popular that Trifari filed and won a law suit preventing cheap knock-offs of their designs.


The fashion choices of Mrs. O have already shown great panache and popularity. And like Mamie Eisenhower before her, the fashion industry is taking note. Tellingly, designer Elie Tahari unveiled a new purple sheath named the "the Michelle dress" this past week. Might 2009 be the year of "Michelle purple"? Or better yet, "Mrs. O purple"?


A bonus: In the course of our research, we stumbled upon Milky Way Jewels, a Port Hadlock, WA based vintage jewelry store that offers an impressive selection of authentic Trifari pieces - including this necklace, similar to the pearl choker Mrs. Eisenhower wore.


A Hidden Jewel 


Photo credit: Flickr user Barack Obama / Creative Commons

Since the triumphant end of the campaign, Mrs. O appearances have been thin on the ground, with fashion watchers’ attention now firmly focused on the Inauguration. Fortunately, we’ve uncovered this hidden gem from the archives to feed our craving. Pictured at an event in back in January, Mrs. O looks effortlessly chic in a petrol blue silk blouse teamed with gently flared grey pants.

We can’t definitively identify the blouse but once again we suspect a Pinto creation. The pleated neckline recalls both this apricot silk blouse and the much-applauded red gown Mrs. O wore on her recent visit to the White House. The gorgeous blue-green jewel shade is also a Pinto favorite, featured extensively in her Fall 07 collection. Mrs. O cinches the blouse with another of her signature statement belts.

After extensive investigation, we believe this is actually her beloved Alaia belt worn in reverse, a variation also seen at this event in Iowa. An ingenious piece of fashion recycling if so! IMGA0684.jpg

Photo credit: Flickr user Barack Obama / Creative Commons

We love this rich, bold color on Mrs. O, but equally, we love how this outfit flatters her curves. A master class in how to do volume without adding bulk, this combination skims and flares in all the right places, creating a beautifully elongated silhouette. Once again, it all comes down to the belt, Mrs. O’s weapon of choice in dressing to flatter her hourglass curves.

Date: January 15, 2008

Event: Campaign speech, Georgetown, South Carolina


Must Read Mrs. O

Some of the most interesting Mrs. O style reads as of late have been the work of the publication long known for their reporting on the financial markets: the Wall Street Journal. Their delightful fashion blog, Heard on the Runway, is the driving force behind much of this coverage and the source for two of our three top reads of the day.

(1) "Oscar de la Renta's Unabashedly Luxe Pre-Fall Collection" An overview of the designer's Pre-Fall collection reveals that he will likely not be dressing Mrs. O for the Inauguration. Though de la Renta designed Inaugural Ball gowns for Hillary Clinton in 1997 and Laura Bush in 2005, he's not a name we've seen frequently in the Mrs. O style mix. The designer does point out, however, that Mrs. O has worn his designs in the past. From our research, we've uncovered this houndstooth dress from the de la Renta's Fall 07 RTW collection that Mrs. O wore to a women's conference in October 2007.

(2) "Lunchtime Snap: The Barack Obama 'Badge Brand'" Next up is a read on aspiring (and inspired) entrepreneurs trying to capitalize on the Obama brand badge. The highlight is a shot of Andre Leon Talley, Vogue's editor-at-large, wearing a black "Obama" cap bedazzled in rhinestones and purchased from a man selling the hats from the truck of his car. Only in New York!

(3) "Over 40 Finds a Muse" Finally, an interesting look at how retailers from Talbots to Saks Fifth Avenue are taking inspiration from Mrs. O's style aesthetic. Describing the middle-aged female target as a "high-spending but difficult to please demographic" the article reveals tactics the retailers are using to unlock their own Mrs. O magic. Designer Elie Tahari has even unveiled a purple-floral sheath named "the Michelle dress" after Mrs. O.


A New Maria for Mrs. O

PA Michelle Obama / Jill Biden Rally - Philadelphia 9.24.08 Michelle Obama Rally

Photo credit: (Top) Flickr user Barack Obama / Creative Commons; (Bottom) Flickr user Barb Patch

The much buzzed about WWD designs were not only a delight to study, they also put another Mrs. O designer on our radar. When the accompanying article alluded to Maria Cornejo as one of Mrs. O's "favorite designers", our interest was immediately piqued.

The Chilean-born designer, perhaps best known for her modern, minimalist aesthetic and sophisticated draping, has a boutique on Mott St. in New York that we often pass by and peer into with curiosity on our nightly walk home. Though her label, Zero, is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, the designer is likely best known to the public for her collaboration with Keds in 2006 (this is how we first became familiar with her at least). Eager to learn more about this pairing, further research uncovered an early November article from Canada's National Post in which Cornejo comments on Mrs. O's high-low approach to fashion:

"One day she wears a designer, then she'll wear Gap," gushes Maria Cornejo, the New York-based designer whose architectural clothing Obama has worn on the campaign trail. "[It's] actually how real people dress."

Not only is Maria Cornejo an exciting and progressive new addition to Mrs. O's designer repertoire, the connection has also helped to answer a nagging question. From Madison, WI, to Philadelphia, PA to The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, Mrs. O was often seen wearing two versions of a tailored, three-quarter length sleeve jacket this fall. A signature Mrs. O look in the final months on the campaign trail, the designer was unknown to us until now: Maria Cornejo.

The black jacket in evening raffia hails from the Spring/Summer 2009 Zero collection, while the blue jacket in textured wool (also worn with a matching skirt for the Daily Show appearance) is from the Fall/Winter 2008 collection. Often paired with perfectly coordinated patent leather belts, we were surprised to learn these accessories weren't the work of the designer as well (but that would be too easy!). From these pieces, it's clear that Maria Cornejo is as much a master at tailoring as she is draping, and well-deserving of her new and covetous position on Mrs. O's fashion roster. Though to date "Maria" has meant only one thing to us in the realm of Mrs. O's style, we'll gladly make room for another.  

Photos used with kind permission from Zero + Maria Cornejo / Photographer Monica Feudi


Beautiful in Black


Photo via Flickr user Barack Obama // Creative Commons

As the Democrat presidential hopefuls and their partners descended on Iowa for the pivotal Jefferson Jackson Democrat fundraising dinner back in November 2007, it’s fair to say Mrs. O already looked the part.

All in black, she teamed the straight lines of a simple sheath dress with a matching fitted double breasted jacket with a distinctive, outsize collar, asymmetrical buttons and three-quarter length sleeves. As a silhouette, it’s deceptively simple: as is often the case with Mrs. O, the fine details are what give this outfit real flair. We think it could well have been taken from Giorgio Armani’s Fall Winter 2007 collection, although the neckline of this gorgeous jacket from Maria Pinto’s collection from the same season may suggest the suit is her design. What do you think? Please get in touch if you think you have the answer.

She wore the ensemble throughout the day, from leading supporters to a rally alongside her husband, into the evening event when she confidently warmed up the assembled Iowan audience ahead of Barack’s speech. His performance that night, as we now know, marked a powerful moment in his candidacy, early signs that the Democrat tide was turning his way. We think this shot of Mrs. O alongside 5-time Grammy award winner John Legend (who performed at the rally) is particularly stunning. Smiling and at ease, hair pulled up into an elegant, loose chignon, we note the later addition – in what we now know to be a trademark move – of a gorgeous, large brooch to the jacket lapel for the evening.

Date: November 10, 2007

Venue: Jefferson Jackson Fundraising Dinner, Des Moines, Iowa