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Inauguration 2013

Michelle Obama's inaugural ball gown: It's Jason Wu times two

January 21, 2013|By Booth Moore | Los Angeles Times Fashion Critic
  • Michelle Obama wears a ruby Jason Wu gown at the 2013 Inaugural Ball (at left with President Obama); the first lady's second dance with the designer, who designed her 2009 gown (at right) as well.
Michelle Obama wears a ruby Jason Wu gown at the 2013 Inaugural Ball (at left… (Mark Wilson (left) and Joe…)

Same designer, second dance.

It was either the mark of a true fashion independent or the missed opportunity of a lifetime. Michelle Obama chose the same designer, Jason Wu, to create her second inaugural gown as created the first.

The second gown is a ruby red chiffon and velvet halter style. It has a similar romantic quality to the first. But it signals more maturity, assuredness and yes, power, than the feathery, all-white confection she wore in 2009. The Obamas have come a long way, and so has Wu, who has gone from an upstart designer to the toast of Seventh Avenue, with a lower-priced line named Miss Wu that recently came out, and an accessories line.

Photos: Michelle Obama on inauguration day

The rough cut diamond ring is by designer Kimberly McDonald. The stacked bracelets are an Obama signature, as are Jimmy Choo shoes.

Obama has done so much for young designers in the past four years, wearing names like Rodarte, Band of Outsiders, Prabal Gurung and Thakoon and giving the American fashion industry global exposure and a financial boost. It does seem like she missed an opportunity to give someone else a chance.

On the other hand, if the first lady is anything, she is her own woman, a true fashion independent. She has worn Wu on numerous occasions. His clothes work for her. And she might have decided, perhaps even with a dash of defiance, to dress for herself first.

It was an interesting day, fashion-wise. The red Wu gown was a powerful complement to the first lady’s inaugural ensemble Monday morning, a Thom Browne navy blue tie-silk jacquard coat and dress, her own riff on the menswear trend for women. The pieces were tailored to perfection and fit her like armor. Adding the J. Crew jeweled belt and Reed Krakoff custom navy blue suede boots added a superhero edge to the outfit.

The girls, Sasha and Malia Obama, looked cute in their colorful, tone-on-tone looks by J. Crew and Kate Spade. How they have grown up. And Beyonce (in an long sleeve black velvet Emilio Pucci gown and emerald Lorraine Schwartz earrings) and Jay Z (in a Tom Ford suit) personified Hollywood glam.

As for the president, during the day, he repeated his Brooks Brothers overcoat from four years ago. It appears the Hart Schaffner Marx tuxedo he’s wearing Monday night is an old favorite too. As he did in 2009, Obama wore it with a white tie instead of the more traditional black tie (a white tie is traditionally worn with tails).

Then again, there was almost nothing here that was traditional, sartorially speaking, which is one of the reasons why it was such fun to watch.


Michelle Obama: First Lady of style

Inauguration 2009: Michelle Obama chooses Jason Wu

Thom Browne talks about Michelle Obama's inaugural outfit

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