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Washington - Michelle Obama made it a fashion tradition on Monday night, wearing a custom-made Jason Wu gown to the inaugural balls.
The ruby-coloured dress was a follow-up to the white gown Wu made for her four years ago when she was new to Washington.
She now emerged in velvet and chiffon as a bona fide trendsetter.
“I can’t believe it. It’s crazy,” said Wu, in his Manhattan studio. “To have done it once was already the experience of my life. To have a second time is tremendous.”
US President Barack Obama, also struck a similar style chord to his first-term inaugural balls. He wore a white tie with his tuxedo.
The red halter dress was the only one Wu submitted for Michelle’s consideration.
He collaborated with jeweller, Kimberly McDonald, on the jewelled neckline.
“For this occasion, it had to be real diamonds,” Wu said.
He said he felt the dress showed how he has grown as a designer – and how Michelle’s style has evolved to be more confident.
The first family headed out to inaugural festivities earlier on Monday with Michelle leading a very co-ordinated fashion parade in a navy-silk, checkered-patterned coat and dress by Thom Browne that were inspired by a menswear necktie.
The outfit was specifically designed for her, but Browne said he was not 100 percent sure she was going to wear it until she came out with it on inauguration day. “I am proud and humbled,” he said.
The rest of Michelle’s inauguration day outfit included a belt from J Crew, necklace by Cathy Waterman and a cardigan by Reed Krakoff, whose ensemble she also wore to the intimate, indoor swearing-in ceremony.
Obama wore a blue tie with his white shirt, dark suit and overcoat.
His daughter, Malia, had on a plum-coloured J Crew coat with the hemline of an electric-blue dress peeking out and a burgundy-coloured scarf. Her younger sister, Sasha, had on a Kate Spade coat and dress in a similar purple shade.
The vice president’s wife, Jill Biden, wore a grey coat and dress by American designer, Lela Rose.
Michelle has worn Browne’s designs for other occasions, including a grey dress with black lace overlay to one of the presidential debates last year, and she honoured him last summer at the Smithsonian’s Cooper-Hewitt National Design Awards for his contribution to fashion.
Browne made his name in modern menswear, but he launched womenswear in 2011.
The idea to use the tie fabric came to him because he was designing men’s clothes at the same time, he explained.
Simon Collins, dean of the school of fashion at Parsons The New School for Design in New York, said the Obamas dressed in their typical fashion: one that shows pride in their appearance.
“They are a stylish couple and their children look fabulous. Too many people get dressed in the dark,” he said. “They show it’s good to dress up, take pride in how you look. … It’s a wonderful example for America and the rest of the world.”
He also noted that the Obamas seem to understand that the fashion industry is a driving force in the US economy and that its lobby is a powerful one. They don’t treat fashion frivolously, he observed.
Collins joked that Obama should perhaps try one of Browne’s signature shrunken suits – the ones that show a man’s ankles.
At the end of the inaugural festivities, Michelle’s outfit and accessories will go to the National Archives. –