Behind the Scenes with Michelle Obama

If you, too, are mesmerized by the fabulous fashions of our first lady, read this interview!

Photograph: photo courtsey of Black Dog & Leventhal

Fashion Director Regina Haymes goes behind-the-scenes with Susan Swimmer, the author of "Michelle Obama: First Lady of Fashion & Style"

Q: The public is fascinated with Michelle Obama’s style. Why?

A: She’s such a refreshing change of pace! She looks so modern, and exudes such confidence, and I think that’s what a lot of people are responding to. She also dresses more stylishly that we’ve seen a first lady do in years. She wears form-fitting clothes in vibrant colors, sleek eveningwear, and lots of bold jewelry.

Q: How is her style different from recent first ladies?

A: For starters, she wears separates, prints, and lots of accessories. She also takes risks—she wears clothes from young designers, she mixes high-end pieces with items from mass market retailers, and she tries lots of prints. Most of our recent first ladies have worn far more traditional styles and designers.

Q: How has Obama’s style evolved?

A: When you go back into the archives and look at old pictures, she really used to dress like a corporate executive, which she was! She wore dark colored solid suits, lots of turtlenecks, and her hair was done in a sort of 50’s flip style. Somewhere along the campaign she really came into her style, and started to look so much more unique and chic. It’s funny to me that as the campaign became more intense, her style became more interesting. I would have thought it would go the other way around.

Q: What’s been your favorite look of hers?

A: There have been many. I loved a lot of what she wore on her first European trip with her husband. I loved the Thakoon dress and coat—in a fuchsia and black floral print—and I loved the Junya Watanabe asymmetrical argyle sweater that she wore with a full skirt. I didn’t love what she wore to meet the Queen—a black skirt, white tank and black cardigan sweater—because I thought it was too harsh a color scheme at that moment (the Queen wore a peach suit, and the furnishings are so worn and muted). I also loved the tomato red empire waist sheath she wore when she and her husband visited the Bush’s at the White House shortly after Obama won but before he took residence.

Q: What are some of the key elements to her look?

She loves dresses, especially sheaths in vibrant colors, and also shirt dresses. She loves anything sleeveless, she wears a lot of bold jewelry, lots of cardigan sweaters, and she loves a great belt! Michelle has figured out what works on her body, and she gets it right most of the time. She’s smart—she uses all the style tricks that a woman over 40 should embrace.

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