As the First Lady of our nation, Michelle Obama carries a large amount of responsibility on her shoulders. She is a very busy woman between spearheading charitable work across the world, launching public health campaigns, and of course supporting the President of the United States. She has managed to juggle all of this while budding into a First Lady fashionista. To better understand her signature style and now-famous fashion sense, it helps to recount the road that led the Obamas to the White House.
Separate from her husband's legacy, Michelle Obama's personal achievements stand on their own. Michelle was born in Chicago in 1964 and later attended Princeton University; she was awarded a law degree from Harvard Law School in 1988.1
Shortly thereafter, Michelle met her future husband and current president, Barack Obama. After marrying in 1992, Michelle switched gears to focus on current social issues that complemented her husband's political platform.
Michelle was rewarded for her efforts in social activism by being named one of Time Magazine's 100 Most Influential People in 2013. Time praised her for her humility and willingness to step outside the box of a typical wife of a political figurehead.
According to Michelle, her guiding compass in her rise to political fame was found in her strong sense of personal identity, "One of the lessons that I grew up with was to always stay true to yourself and never let what somebody else says distract you from your goals. And so when I hear about negative and false attacks, I really don't invest any energy in them, because I know who I am."
THIS UNSHAKABLE IDENTITY CAN BE SEEN IN BOTH MICHELLE'S SOCIAL CRUSADES AND HER PERSONAL STYLE.
Though influential in political fashion history, Michelle wasn't the first First Lady to embrace White House style. Other First Lady fashion icons before her include:2
More formally known as Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and praised for her chic 1960s style, popularizing the statement scarf accessory.
Lady Bird was unassuming, wearing casual, comfortable clothing in classic, chic designs.
Patricia embraced classic fashion throughout the 1970s, like pearls, box suits, and tailored peacoats.
Mrs. Reagan will forever be known for her signature red color, a favorite throughout her polished wardrobe.
Famous for wearing a signature power suit both as a First Lady and in her own political career.
"I have seen firsthand that being president doesn't change who you are,it reveals who you
- Michelle Obama
These forward-thinking First Ladies paved the way for Michelle Obama when it came to both style and political influence. Today, a First Lady does much more than provide support for her husband while in office. She is an iconic figure that all American women look to for guidance in political, social, and fashion trends.
Michelle Obama's Classic yet Contemporary Take on a First Lady
THE EVOLUTION OF MICHELLE OBAMA’S SIGNATURE STYLE THROUGHOUT HER TIME AS FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES SO FAR:3
Wore a sparkling gold Isabel Toledo suit.
2009 WESTERN STATES BALL
Wore a lavish, wedding-inspired white Jason Wu gown.
2009 BLACK HISTORY MONTH EVENT
Wore a casual J. Crew ensemble with a belted sweater and pencil skirt.
2009 MEET-AND-GREET WITH QUEEN ELIZABETH II
Wore a simple, chic black cardigan with an A-line skirt and pearls.
2009 EXERCISE PROGRAM PROMOTION
Jumped rope in a belted cardigan with Capri pants.
2009 STATE DINNER
Indian-inspired, hand-embroidered Naeem Kahn gown.
2009 NOBEL PEACE PRIZE CEREMONY
Wore a gold, shimmery Calvin Klein dress with a cardigan.
2010 STATE DINNER
Wore a one-shoulder blue shimmer Peter Soronen gown.
2011 STATE DINNER
fashion-forward burnt orange Alexander McQueen gown.
2012 PRESIDENTIAL MEDAL OF FREEDOM PRESENTATION
one-shoulder black Michael Kors gown with a full skirt.
2013 PRESIDENTIAL INAUGURATION
Wore an elegant navy Thom Browne coat and dress combination, made with silk-necktie inspired fabric that was custom-made for the First Lady.
Michelle Obama's FLOTUS fashion choices range from casual to elegant, depending on the occasion. In her everyday life, you may see her in a pencil skirt with a matching cardigan or wearing a bright floral print dress on a family vacation. For a political event, she can be seen in a sophisticated designer gown that merges contemporary design with classic style.
IF MICHELLE OBAMA'S FASHION CHOICES ARE ANY INDICATOR OF HER PERSONAL CONVICTIONS, SHE IS ALWAYS WILLING TO PUSH THE ENVELOPE, WHILE REMAINING TRUE TO HERSELF.
First Lady fashion even became a bone of contention in the 2012 presidential election. First-Ladies-in-the-running Michelle Obama and Ann Romney faced off in the world of fashion as their husbands duked it out in the political arena.
In the Michelle versus Ann fashion war, Michelle came out on top based on overall social media mentions throughout the political campaign. Here’s how the mentions breakdown:
Michelle's hair was mentioned 43,634 times
Ann's hair was mentioned 32,323 times
Michelle's dress was mentioned 99,464 times (87% Positive vs. 3% Negative)
Ann's dress was mentioned 35,657 (65% Positive vs. 12% Negative)
Michelle’s shoes were mentioned 76,457 times
Ann’s shoes were mentioned 41,354 times
Michelle’s jewerly was mentioned 23,121 times
Ann’s jewelry was mentioned 18,735 times
IN FACT, A SIMPLE NOD OF APPROVAL FROM THIS STYLISH FIRST LADY COULD BE WORTH ITS WEIGHT IN GOLD.
In an analysis performed by Albert Fingerhut Professor of Finance and Business Transformation at New
York University's Stern School, David Yermack, fashion brands worn by Michelle Obama experienced a notable
increase in value.4
After Michelle Obama is seen wearing a certain designer brand, stock prices for the company automatically increase. Coincidence? Maybe not. Michelle Obama is a diehard Saks devotee; since her time as First Lady, Saks has seen long-term financial gains.4 Even more interesting is the fact that a brand's financial success shows no relationship to President Obama's approval ratings at the time.
Top designers are fighting for her to wear their labels in the hopes of boosting sales and brand appeal. Every trendsetting piece, large or small, worn by Michelle makes headlines in this digital age. Even Michelle sporting a simple White House Black Market dress on a TV appearance can draw immediate attention to a brand so that an item will literally sell out the next day.
For example, after Michelle wore the famous sari-inspired Naeem Khan designer gown to the 2009 State
Dinner, Khan confirmed that his designs were "flying out of stores."
After donning the shimmery, gold Calvin Klein dress for the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize Ceremony, Michelle Obama's endorsement was linked to $772 million in aggregate gains for all companies associated with the garment, including Saks, Nordstrom, Macy's, Phillips-Van Heusen, and Dillard's.
Michelle recognizes the power of her influence and the importance of "spreading the wealth" among young designers, as she calls it. Michelle describes her balance between high-end fashion and ready-to-wear design by saying, "I try to be thoughtful about spreading the wealth: young designers. Mixing things up is important to me."
"STYLE HELPS DISTINGUISH YOU. IT'S A GREAT POTENTIAL OPPORTUNITY THAT PEOPLE TEND TO LEAVE BY THE WAYSIDE." - MICHELLE OBAMA
Fashion experts believe that no other First Lady in history has had this profound effect on the fashion industry. Michelle Obama's fashion choices influence modern style, as well as the success of independent and mainstream fashion labels.
DOES BEING A FASHION TRENDSETTER RUN IN THE FAMILY?
And as the saying goes, "Like mother, like daughter." Taking after their mother in casual sophistication, the girls are miniature fashion icons, featured in fashion editorials by magazines like Teen Vogue.
The First Daughters wore bold purple and lavender peacoats, designed by J.Crew and Kate Spade at President Obama’s second inauguration into office.
Michelle Obama Makes First Lady Fashion Affordable
Michelle Obama's fashion take is unique in that it integrates
top-of-the-line designer pieces with affordable off-the-rack items. Instead of throwing out cheaper looks for high-fashion pieces "just because she can," Michelle's fashion combines the best of both worlds. And she still manages to make best-dressed lists in the likes of Vogue Magazine.
"Women in particular need to keep an eye on their physical and mental health, because if we're scurrying to and from appointments and errands, we don't have a lot of time to take care of ourselves. We need to do a better job of putting ourselves higher on our own 'to do' list." - Michelle Obama
Some may say that these simple fashion choices go hand-in-hand with Michelle's mission to inspire women throughout the US. Personal development, physical health, and fashion sensibility all merge into one as an expression of Michelle Obama's signature style.
What does it take to fill the shoes of this down-to-earth First Lady? Here are some of Michelle's most popularly relatable fashion trends:
"First and foremost, I wear what I love. That's what women have to focus on: what makes them happy
and what makes them feel comfortable and beautiful. If I can have any impact, I want women to feel good
about themselves and have fun with fashion."
- Michelle Obama
5 Steps to Get the Michelle Obama Look for Less
All of the above items are easy to find at any major retailer to create your own affordable Michelle Obama look. Follow these simple steps to dress yourself in head-to-toe FLOTUS style:
Showcase your best assets. Michelle prefers sophisticated sleeveless tops and dresses to show off her fit upper body.1
Have a staple piece. For Michelle, every outfit looks best when worn with a colorful cardigan, whether a casual pencil skirt or a designer dress.2
Dress it up with a belt. Even a simple tank top and Capri pants can look refined when dressed up with a statement belt and cardigan.3
Always accessorize with jewelry. An outfit isn't complete without a well-placed brooch or a favorite pair of stylish pearls.4
Keep it lively with color. Michelle loves floral print and patterned skirts, dresses, and tops that work perfectly with her preferred cardigan-and-belt combo.5
When in doubt, keep it classic. Though Michelle has been known to wear high-fashion pieces for important occasions, she is most likely to sport a classic American brand like J.Crew on a day-to-day basis. Having several timeless pieces in your closet to mix and match will make it easy to throw together a sophisticated yet casual Michelle Obama look last minute.
While many see fashion as fun and frivolous, Michelle Obama proves that First Lady style can be an expression of personal identity. Michelle Obama uses her fashion influence to inspire women, support designers, and even boost the US economy.
First Ladies to come have big - and stylish - shoes to fill. Though Michelle Obama may not see her own personal style as particularly innovative or groundbreaking, she teaches women everywhere a valuable lesson that can be used in all areas of life. When it comes to political conviction, personal relationships, and especially fashion, Michelle Obama urges, "Just do what works for you, because there will always be someone who thinks differently."