Michelle Obama’s fashion legacy and the style tips we’ve learned from her over the past eight years

Michelle Obama

Michelle Obama isn’t the only first lady since Jackie O to use fashion to define her public persona.

But she’s indisputably the master and showed her class as she left the White House in an understated Jason Wu dress which left new First Lady Melania Trump to take centre stage – even if that Tiffany gift left her a little flustered.

Nancy Reagan, Barbara Bush and Hillary Clinton all knew the importance of style when it came to establishing substance.

Nancy used her signature ‘Reagan Red’ to show her patriotism, Barbara wore a pair of $29 shoes to her husbands’ inaugural ball to demonstrate how down to earth she was and Hilary made the ‘pant suit’ her own, to show who wore the trousers.

But none of these women had a lasting impact on style and didn’t even come close to receiving style icon status like the late Jackie O.First Lady Jackie Kennedy wearing Oscar de la Renta

America had to wait until 2008 and the arrival of Michelle Obama to get their new Mrs Kennedy.

With her polished image and incredible style, Michelle won over the hearts of the American public but there was a lot more to her than a set of toned arms and a nice frock.

Right from the start, Michelle was the true master when it came to using fashion to define her image and manipulate the American public.

So how did she do it, and what will her fashion legacy be?

Sarah Brown and Michelle Obama
Wearing J Crew to meet Sarah Brown in London in 2009 (Photo: PA)

Michelle’s master stroke, that she first employed on the campaign trail, was using fashion to look like she was ‘one of us’. By cleverly wearing high street brands, she looked down-to-earth and approachable, ensuring that the American public could relate to her.

Barack and Michelle ObamaWhen Michelle first wore one of her trademark sleeveless dresses back in 2009, the Chicago Tribune reported that it received hundreds of responses, many criticising the look deeming it ‘inappropriate’ for a first lady. Unfazed, Michelle made the sleeveless dress the main-stay of her wardrobe, making it acceptable for middle-aged women to ‘bare arms’.

When Michelle first wore one of her trademark sleeveless dresses back in 2009, the Chicago Tribune reported that it received hundreds of responses, many criticising the look deeming it ‘inappropriate’ for a first lady. Unfazed, Michelle made the sleeveless dress the main-stay of her wardrobe, making it acceptable for middle-aged women to ‘bare arms’.

Michelle further cemented her popularity be firmly establishing herself as an ambassador for the US fashion industry. During her early years at the White House, she favoured all-American labels such as Ralph Lauren, Narciso Rodriguez, Naeem Khan, Michael Kors and Calvin Klein.

Her decision to wear a Narsico Rodriguez dress at the election night victory rally back in 2008, was cleverly masterminded.

Michelle Obama during the 2008 US Elections wearing a Narciso Rodriguez dress
Michelle Obama during the 2008 US Elections wearing a Narciso Rodriguez dress (Photo: Getty)

Along with her decision to wear a one-shoulder Jason Wu column gown, at the inaugural ball in 2009.

Michelle Obama
Wearing Jason Wu for the Inaugural ball in 2009 (Photo: Getty)

And in 2012, when she wore a dress by Tracy Reese, a mid-range American designer, on stage at the Democratic National Convention she was applauded for her choice.

Michelle Obama
Wearing Tracey Reece on stage at the National Democratic Convention (Photo: AFP/Getty)

Establishing these up and coming designers and by championing mid-range and high street labels, she used her position to boost the American fashion industry, gaining popularity along the way.

But while Michelle’s fashion choices helped to win over the American public, she didn’t always get it right. Her decision to wear a dress by British designer Roksanda Illincic to met Chinese president Hu Jintao in 2011 didn’t do her any favours at home.

Michelle Obama
Wearing Roksanda Ilincic (Photo: Rex)

And when she wore an organza, floor length Alexander McQueen gown for a state dinner at the White House in honour of the Chinese president, she drew criticism at home.

On this occasion it was felt that she should have worn a gown by a homegrown designer.

Barack and Michelle Obama
Michelle may have won us over, but she drew criticism at home for wearing Alexander McQueen at a state dinner in honour of China’s President Hu Jintao (Photo: Reuters)

But on an official visit to UK to meet David and Samantha Cameron in 2012, she delighted her hosts by wearing a teal off-the-shoulder gown by London based couture house Marchesa.

The addition of a statement Tom Binns necklace cemented her fashion prowess.

First lady Michelle Obama (R) and Samantha Cameron
Wearing Marchesa to meet Samantha Cameron in 2012 (Photo: Rex)

Her style staples

Michelle developed a winning fashion formula that was a clever combination of the fashionable and the formal.

Successfully reinventing power dressing, she redefined first lady chic and made it modern. But most importantly, she masterminded a carefully orchestrated image that appealed to a broad electorate, both young and old.

Jewellery: Michelle Obama used costume jewellery to inject a colourful and youthful edge into another wise formal wardrobe. With the clever introduction of a strand of pearls or a statement necklace, she knew just how to switch between traditional and contemporary.

Michelle Obama
Michelle Obama wearing a strand of classic pearls (Photo: Rex)

Timeless appeal: Michelle’s wardrobe is made up sleeveless shifts, 50s style prom dresses and elegant full length gowns. This timeless style appeals to all generations. And this blurring of genres has given 50 plus women the confidence to wear looks that previously were thought too young.

Michelle Obama
Michelle’s ‘go to’ accessories are cinched in belts and bright cardigans (Photo: Rex)

Styling tricks: The queen of the colourful shift dress, Michelle always made sure she added something extra to give her outfit an edge. A statement necklace, a belt, a quirky clutch or a colourful cardigan are all fall-back Obama styling tricks. The result was a classic look with a modern twist.

Her legacy

Probably the most compelling element of Michelle’s success was how accessible she was. American women could relate to her style, put quite simply, she felt like ‘one of them’.

Thanks to her love of high street labels like H&M, J Crew and H&M, her loyalty to American brands and willingness to champion home grown talent and or course her imitable style, her style legacy will live on.

Her styling staples were adopted by all and thanks to her penchant for sleeveless dresses she gave millions of women around the world the ‘right to bare arms’.

Her decision to wear a dress by Jason Wu to leave the White House was no coincidence either. This was the man that designed both of her inaugural ball gowns. Michelle helped to make Jason a house hold name, and he in turn was the designer she went to one final time.

Michelle Obama in a red Jason Wu dress on her final day in the White House (Photo: Getty)

[Source:-Mirror]

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