Tag Archives: Michelle Obama

O Little Town of Washington

Searching for an updated holiday look?  Well look no further than our First Family’s sophisticated 2011 Christmas portrait!  First Lady Michelle Obama looks glamorous, as always, in a textured Byron Lars capped-sleeved, black cocktail dress from his Beauty Mark line.  Many writers were impressed Mrs. Obama wore this dress a second time, as she sported the look earlier this year at the 9/11 Memorial, sparking many to commend her for reusing pieces of her own wardrobe!  Elder daughter Malia looks quite grown-up in her blue and black “Unconditional Osier dress” from Anthropologie (which is already sold out!).  Younger daughter Sasha looks just adorable in her silver and eggplant “Clarissa dress” by BB Dakota.  And the President looks handsome as always in a navy suit and silk tie.  The Obama girls all sported beautiful frocks with lines that look like they’re straight out of the 1950s, but the materials make them completely modern!  Whoever said Washington is Hollywood for ugly people hasn’t been to the White House in a while!



Talk about one terrific “Tuesday Twosome!”  As a political scientist, this editor just loves when fashion and politics collide, and this is the ultimate international combination of stylish spouses.  Here, we have our elegant First Lady, Michelle Obama, and the posh princess, Kate Middleton, pictured during their meeting in the United Kingdom this morning.  Princess Catherine sported one of her favorite designers, Reiss (you may remember the last time she wore one of their dresses…)  The camel-colored Shola dress retails at $340 (which crashed the site today).  Michelle wore an updated 1950s frock from Barbara Tfank.  She accessorized her gorgeous black-belted, ice-blue, brocade dress with a pink shrug, silver stilettos and a beautiful brooch.  Statecraft and style?  Yes, please!


This week each “Look-of-the-Day” will be inspired by a Spring flower.  Florals may not be our favorite trend, but there’s no reason why we shouldn’t be inspired by their natural beauty.  We actually have shown this dress before in our President’s Day article on Mrs. Obama, but we never got to discuss it at length.  This silk crepe frock was designed by one of the First Lady’s favorite artists, Maria Pinto, and worn in St. Paul when President Obama accepted the Democratic Nomination.  Michelle’s bright purple dress brought to mind flowerpots of pansies on a sunny spring day.  And while “pansy” is probably the least appropriate way to describe our nation’s tough “Mom-in-Chief,” it is certainly a flattering color on her beautiful skin.

Tom Binns: Jewel of the Emerald Isle

Tom Binns is the famous designer behind many of the beautiful baubles First Lady Michelle Obama dons on a regular basis.  Our editors thought it made sense to feature this Irish designer in the days leading up to St. Patrick’s Day.  Binns was born in Belfast, Ireland (the ancestral hometown of our editors, which only endears him to them further), and has been living in Venice Beach, CA for the past few years.  He graduated from Middlesex Polytechnic in 1981 with a degree in jewelry design, and got his start during the “Punk Era” in London.  Binns was influenced by the Dada Movement, and is now considered the pioneer of the “junk-jewelry.”  Aka, he’s an alchemist – he makes garbage into gems.  The low-key designer seems to be making fun of high-priced accessories as often as he… well, makes high-priced accessories.  In his early days, Binns made pirate jewelry for Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren’s “new romantic” clothing lines, and his love of skulls stayed with him, as he’s made the unusual shape pretty popular with his famous rings.  In 1981, he created his first collection, made entirely of rubber – and his rubber fish bracelets became quite a hit.  He eventually went on to work with other offbeat materials, such as safety pins and nails, as well as beach glass and driftwood for his collaboration with Calvin Klein.  Binns won the Council of Fashion Designers of America Accessory Designer of the Year Award in 2006.  Binns’ most notable fan is the current First Lady.  Michelle Obama has been seen wearing his creations at a party thrown for her by notorious Vogue editor, Anna Wintour, and above at a White House gala.  Binns went on to open his first store in New York in 2009.  Last year, Binns collaborated with Disney Couture for the release of Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland to make Lewis Carroll-esque pieces.  (One of theSkinnyStiletto‘s favorite style inspirations).  Prices ranged from $100 to $1,500.  The resulting mismatched hearts, teapots, rabbits, and keyholes cemented the idea that the quirky tale was a perfect match for the quirky designer.  Tom Binns is something quite rare in the jewelry industry – original.  It’s no wonder other designers copy his work.  Binns’ pieces are creative, glamorous and fun, and we’re looking forward to his career in the fashion world.  That’s why theSkinnyStiletto crowns him the jewel of the Emerald Isle.

Tom Binns for Disney Couture Alice in Wonderland Necklaces

Everyday Icon: Michelle Obama and the Power of Style

Kate Betts, former Editor-in-Chief of Harper’s Bazaar, has composed a beautiful book describing Michelle Obama’s triumphant style.  Throughout the narrative Betts has included historical fashion factoids and how Michelle’s choices influence the modern world.  The book itself, is visually stunning.  Unfortunately, her narrative is conflicting – both repetitive and contradictory.  Admittedly, theSkinnyStiletto awaited this book with anticipation, as we had featured Mrs. Obama as a favorite “Fashion Icon” on President’s Day.  However, our disappointment was magnified by the author’s lack of objectivity.  The most glaring problem with Betts’ work is that her own political bias was apparent from the beginning.  While she is quick to criticize the clothes of Condoleezza Rice, Laura and Barbara Bush, Nancy Reagan, and – really? – Mary Todd Lincoln, Betts was equally apologetic for Hillary Clinton’s frumpy frocks.  Her repeated efforts at extolling the elegance of Jackie Kennedy and the current Mrs. O were excessive.  (Okay, that’s a given… they probably are our two best-dressed First Ladies).  But here’s an apt example: On pages 180-181, there is a short blurb about the prevalence of pearls in the White House.  Betts gives credit to both Jackie O. and the first Mrs. Bush for making white pearls a First Lady favorite, but says while Jackie’s were “prim and classic,” Bush’s fake pearls caused the look to “lose its luster.”  Um, hate to break it to you Ms. Betts, but Mrs. Kennedy’s weren’t real either.  Jacqueline Bouvier bought them in the 1950s at Bergdorf Goodman for a whopping $35.  This was discovered when the famous three-strand necklace went to auction at Sotheby’s in 1996.  Considering Betts was once the editor-in-chief at a world-famous fashion magazine, we cannot believe she had never heard this juicy tidbit of style history.  So what was her actually point is drawing such a distinction?  Jackie became First Lady at 31; Barbara Bush was considerably older.  Betts’ comparison seemed petulant.

Betts also criticizes the famed fashion guide Dress for Success, written by John T. Molloy, for being outdated.  Considering the first edition was published over 30 years ago (and there was initially only a male edition), it was inevitable that certain trends from the ’70s would have disappeared. However, Betts is off-target for trivializing one of the very books responsible for women succeeding in a post-feminist business-world.  Her own publication has pictures illustrating that Michelle herself was following Molloy’s recommendations when she worked as a Chicago lawyer.  There is no doubt that Mrs. Obama has created her own individual style and that her fashion sense has secured it’s own place in history.  But it’s wrong to dismiss the choices worn by the women who came before her… for they are the very reason she can dress that way at all.  What Betts does well though, is capture the First Lady’s accessibility and common touch.

Putting aside the author’s undeserving critiques of Molloy, groundbreaking women and GOP wives, our biggest concern was Betts’ unfounded insistence that Mrs. Obama “dresses for herself.”  We here at theSkinnyStiletto are huge fans of Michelle and her clothing choices.  We also espouse the idea that women should dress for themselves.  But we are also very much aware that the well-educated, first African-American First Lady, does not dress just for herself.  Mrs. Obama is as shrewd as any politician in Washington.  She retains the services of a stylist and a personal shopper, both of which are befitting a fashionable First Lady.  It is inaccurate to characterize her fashion selections as mere “innate style.”  Oddly enough, Betts’ first chapter describes in detail how Michelle was first viewed as an “angry black woman,” who dressed in nothing but corporate suits when Barack’s campaign began.  As if to further underline how politically astute she is, Mrs. Obama rapidly changed her image and within weeks, adopted a softer, more feminine appeal without sacrificing her sophistication.  Does anyone truly believe that was anything BUT a political move?  To use a quote from her own book (pgs. 158-159), Betts talked to Michelle’s fellow Princeton alum and friend, Karen Jackson Ruffin, who recounted, “She always seemed to know exactly what she was doing, and why she was doing it.”  Mrs. Obama was, is, and remains, well aware of how polarizing politics can be.  She was and is acutely aware of repugnant racists and sexists within our country, those who were just waiting to lampoon her.  Michelle’s response came in equal measures of equanimity and style.  Her business wardrobe was largely relegated to the back of her closet.  The fawning tone of the book was unnecessary.  By contrast, the very idea that a serene, sophisticated First Lady, educated at Princeton and Harvard, who succeeded in the male-dominated bastion of corporate law could be viewed as a reincarnation of Angela Davis is ludicrous.  Somewhere between the fabrications of “60’s radical chic” and Betts’ concept of “innate style” lies the fashion essence of the real Michelle Obama.  We only wish Betts had been capable of identifying it.

First Class First Lady

Michelle Obama in the Oval Office

Obama in J. Crew

Obama in Maria Pinto

In honor of President’s Day, we here at theSkinnyStiletto thought it would be best to describe our own White House inspiration, First Lady Michelle Obama.  Ms. Obama is both sophisticated and accessible, which makes her the thinking woman’s fashion role model.  There have been many articles already written on the subject, because she is the 1st First Lady to wear both couture and catalog clothing.  Since Ms. Obama is also dedicated to keeping her body in tip-top shape, she looks all the more stunning when wearing a fun sundress, glamorous gown or classic suit.

Michelle in Jason Wu

Michelle was the 2nd First Lady to ever grace the cover of Vogue (Hillary Clinton was the 1st).  Ms. Obama looked gorgeous in Narcisco Rodriguez and Jason Wu in the magazine, photographed by one of the world’s most famous photographers, Annie Lebiovitz.  Wu designed the First Lady’s white ball gown for the Presidential Inauguration in 2008.  Obama’s go-to items are bold colors, fitted shifts, pencil skirts, and – just like another famous First Lady – strands of white pearls.  Her personal style is professional, yet very feminine – a hard combination to achieve on a consistent basis.

Obama in Lanvin

Obama’s fashion choices are so influential, a book was published on the very subject called “Everyday Icon: Michelle Obama and the Power of Style,” (which theSkinnyStiletto will be reviewing next month!)  Author Kate Betts describes the power Michelle has over little girls and women everywhere.  While Jacqueline Kennedy was an extreme trendsetter, few American ladies could invest in numerous Chanel suits like the original “Mrs. O.”  Michelle wears both famous designers, and everyday clothing that can be found in any shopping mall across America.  With all due respect to Jackie, this Mrs. O balances beauty and brains, by possessing not only personal style, but a Harvard Law degree – which makes her the quintessential paragon all women aspire to be.

Obama in Michael Kors, Givenchy

Obama in Jason Wu (again!)

Michelle in Peter Soronen