Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Balls, the Dancing, and Michelle Obama's Secret Gown: Wu Wu!

So, how long has the buzz droned on about Michelle Obama's gown. Before inauguration, we looked at proposed sketches, wondered what designer she'd choose. How loud the sound of fashion bees! But tonight the First Lady's gown slipped out the bag and onto the dance floor, baby! Might as well talk about it; however, warning: I'm no fashionista.
All eyes certainly were on Michelle Obama, who had kept her choice of a designer and dress style a secret until literally the moment she entered the dance floor.

The first lady was clad in a long white gown designed by up-and-coming designer Jason Wu. His design style combines modern lifestyle dressing and haute couture, according to his Web site. (CNN)
Later via telephone tonight, Wu revealed to CNN the thought behind white gown. Speaking of the Obama vision, he said, "It's about hope. It's about newness. It's all a little dreamlike. I wanted it (the dress) to have a dreamlike quality."

He also said he didn't find out until tonight with the rest of the world that Mrs. Obama had chosen his dress for the evening. I read somewhere that he screamed like a lottery winner.

"I wasn't given any hints," Wu said to CNN, "... It's a dream come true."

I've got mixed feelings on Jason Wu's gown, but I definitely get the dream vibe he hoped to convey. The gown reminds me of a ball gown my mother had made for me by an exceptional seamstress when I was about 5 years old and the junior queen at a New Orleans event, but my dress didn't have any uncovered shoulders. I was only 5.

Don't take my comparison as a swipe at the First Lady's dress or Wu's talent. I was supposed to look like a queen, remember? And New Orleans, due to Mardi Gras balls, has a history of being a good city for evening wear. Ball gowns don't suddenly appear on store racks here just for prom season. Nearly every woman's closet in NOLA has a ball gown in it, even the maids'.

As far as I'm concerned, Michelle Obama could have worn a paper bag. This day has made me so happy; I had praise song going on like the inauguration poet, Elizabeth Alexander.

Tonight I'm watching the President and the First Lady beaming loveliness. They look like they're in love and mean it, every glance, every turn, every smile. Love is this day's fashion.

President Obama slow-dragged a tad with the First Lady at the Youth Ball and told the 18-35 year-old group, "That's what you call old school." At each ball, I think they danced to the classic "At Last," generally associated with singer Etta James. At one point Beyoncé Knowles serenaded the Obamas with that song. Knowles plays James in the movie Cadillac Records. Ms. Knowles/Mrs. Jay-Z really gets around. I applaud her daddy's marketing skills, and Knowles herself for dreaming her own dreams.

A few TV talking heads complained that the Obamas kept dancing to the same song, but there's a story behind that song for the First Couple, according to MTV.
"Interestingly enough, the year Etta James made this song popular, 1961, is the year Barack Obama was born," Greg Johnson, blues curator and associate professor at the University of Mississippi, told MTV News.

He added that he can't be sure as to Beyoncé's reasons for picking the song, but he is willing to take a few guesses. "The title can imply, 'At last the United States has elected a black president,' " he suggested. " 'At last the United States has overcome its past fears of people of mixed race, at last the United States has chosen positive vision over the status quo.' " (MTV)
Back to Michelle Obama's Ball Gown: (Added in update) If you're totally into the fashion of Mrs. Obama, and want to see gorgeous pictures of the gown, try the blog Mrs. O, tagged "follow the fashion of Mrs. O. -- A regular look at what she's wearing and who she's wearing." Gown talk's under the Mrs. O blog's post on Wu, which is where I spotted the first picture used in my post.

MSNBC calls Michelle Obama the Fashionista-in-Chief. On that network, Robyn Givhan of The Washington Post (and a Princeton University alum like Mrs. Obama) shared her opinion about the inaugural ball gown and Mrs. Obama's inaugural dress from earlier in the day. She and anchor Brian Williams also discussed that we haven't seen a First Lady bare her upper arms in a while. They really admired her arms for a bit, so sculpted, so toned. (For the next four years this woman will be in a fish bowl and I hope she's loving it.)

Givhan showed up on CNN's Larry King Live tonight where she said more of the same, and added that she felt guilty for not being able to talk more about Dr. Jill Biden's clothes, but she dug Jill's cute boots and the red coat too from earlier in the day, which reminded me of a comment on Twitter from Queen Unique, "Mrs. Biden is so cute and tiny in her wee little boots!"

Tim Gunn of Project Runway was on Larry King as well, praising Mrs. Obama's style. We expect Gunn to talk fashion, that's his business. But this morning, even veteran news anchor Tom Brokaw got into the fashionista swing. I wonder if he'll critique the ball gown tomorrow morning.

The Wall Street Journal has takes from fashion critics on Mrs. Obama's gown choice, but this is not the first time Michelle Obama's been wuued.

This article at The New York Times says the First Lady is telling as story with fashion.
If Michelle Obama is a different and more stylish first lady than the country has seen in a while — maybe since Jacqueline Kennedy — she proved it on Tuesday with a coat and matching dress in vivid lemongrass yellow. It seemed a fashion choice meant to stand out against the traditional red and somber black coats on the Capitol steps.

Here is a bolder woman, a serious woman from Chicago and Harvard who is not afraid to express herself with fashion, and it is the kind of confidence that many women will recognize in themselves. (By Cathy Horyn)
You'll have to read Horyn article to see what she means by telling a fashion story. Clearly she disagrees with Anne Coulter.

Robert Verdi said at CNN that Mrs. Obama's gown has a "prom quality," but he wasn't actually hard on the gown. Like Horyn, he compared Michelle Obama's style to Jackie O's. Boy! You should have heard him rattling off how many First Ladies have worn white ball gowns.

I'm also hearing tonight that the presidential pair have a bride and groom vibe, and that's okay since the nearly the whole country's on a honeymoon with the them, even some prominent conservatives .

In addition, the First Lady's been getting kudos for shining light on young designers such as Wu, 26, and people of color in fashion. The yellow dress/ensemble she wore today was designed by Cuban-born Isabel Toledo. Givhan discusses the dress in the MSNBC video above. You may also recall that Mrs. Obama wore a Narciso Rodriguez dress election night.

I learned from a Chicago Tribune blog post that the First Lady wore "patent green Jimmy Choo pumps and green J. Crew gloves" with her "a lemongrass wool lace sheath and coat" during Inauguration Day activities. The reporter, Wendy Donahue, is quite detailed, even discussing Mrs. Obama's jewelry.

Here's video of President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama (I love writing and calling them by their new titles.) at the Neighborhood Ball.

Thank God for CNN and MSNBC video, and to put First Lady fashions into historic perspective, take a look at Yuli's post. She knows more about fashion than I do. And more than likely, one of BlogHer's BeautyHacks will take on the inauguration ball fashion later. So, if you're like me, not a fashionista, you can learn. (Since I first posted it, BlogHer's published a post on Mrs. Obama as "a beacon of style and optimism," and surprise! The fashion expert is from Mrs. O, the blog mentioned earlier. I recommend the post.)

In the meantime, you may take this quiz on First Ladies' inaugural gowns or watch a slide show with commentary on Michelle Obama's fashion sense. A slide show's at HuffPo as well, which is where I found the second picture of the First Couple for this post and where you can read a collection of critiques on Mrs. Obama's style. Hmm, after a a day like today, everybody's quoting everybody.

Oh, I almost forgot. President Obama looked pretty dapper too in his stylish tux.


Blue State Cowgirl said...

Forget the dress. I want to talk about Michelle Obama's ARMS. What's her exercise routine, because I need to start doing it.

Vérité Parlant said...

It's genetics. :-) But I'm sure she also works out.

I say that like the all-knowing Oz.

ByJane said...

Didn't hear Tom Brokaw talking to Robin Gihven, but Brian Williams was so ga ga I wondered if they had a "thing" going. I've never seen him flirt on air like that.

Must say that I didn't particularly like either outfit, but then I'm leafing through the newest Vogue and thinking--WTF?!

Sujan Patricia said...

Michelle Obama already has established her individuality through her fashion choices, but with a self-assurance and far-reaching influence similar to her predecessors.

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