With such a fashionable, model-tall First Lady newly in the White House, the buzz surrounding her sartorial sensibilities is proof that fashion and the national mood go hand in hand. To get Michelle Obama’s effortless American-chic look, go for clean, classic cuts, bold colors and patterns, and opt for minimal jewelry – a few smaller pieces speak volumes. Also, like the First Lady, pay attention to the details: the color of a coat’s lining (think the Narciso Rodriguez pre-inauguration camel coat); a belt cinched over an unbuttoned cardigan; a brooch pinned dead-center on the collar of the dress instead of near the shoulder. All add stylish flair and a touch of individuality to whatever you’re wearing, and yet you will still appear appropriate, ladylike and polished.
Here are our Top 5 well-priced (ie. under $100) picks for staples seen on Mrs. O, plus a fun splurge:
1. CLASSIC COAT & FUN ACCENTS We’ve seen a variety of fabulously chic toppers on Mrs. O from a number of designers, ranging from Maria Pinto to Sonia Rykiel to Narciso Rodriguez. What she obviously looks for in a coat is wool, a long A-line silhouette that’s single-breasted, a solid color, and sometimes a dramatic sleeve. Our pick: a timeless camel classic you’ll reach for time and time (and time and time…) again. Accessorize with a dark navy or black scarf, a jumbled beaded necklace a la the First Lady’s Tom Binns necklace, or, if you’re feeling patriotic, a teeny flag pin (made less cheesy by merit of lots of real bling, like this version crafted from diamonds, rubies & sapphires in 18k white gold from HeavenlyTreasures.com). Single-Breasted Long Wool Coat $99.99 (on sale, was $239) – available in Camel, Chocolate, Blackberry, Winter White & Red – at Chadwicks.com.
STYLE TIP: According to reviews of this coat, it’s quite long, so be sure to take it to your fave tailor and get it shortened to the perfect length for you….after all, it’s what Mrs. O would do.
2. COLORFUL MULTI-TASKING SHEATH Lemongrass, sea blue, fire red, fuschia, cobalt, chartreuse, and bottle green…just a few of the bright colors we’ve seen her in. The most popular, however, is probably the iconic purple Maria Pinto sheath she appeared in on the cover of Newsweek. To work similarly vibrant colors into your own wardrobe, follow her style savvy by also choosing a classic silhouette, typically a sheath with princess-seams, a conservative jewel neckline, and flattering knee length. With the right accessories, it’s a cinch to completely transform this wardrobe mainstay: try a high black belt and pearls, a dark-toned cardigan and slick patent pumps, or a looped silk scarf and python-print clutch. Sheath Dress $49 – available in Vibrant Fuschia, Black & Red – at Newport-News.com.
STYLE TIP: The more wild the print or color of a garment, the more timeless its cut & silhouette should be. The tension between the edgy hue and conservative cut is what creates balance, making you look fashionably trendy instead of faddish & fashion-victim’ish.
3. GLITTERY BROOCH The Carole Tannenbaum vintage pin on the center-front of the chartreuse lace Isabel Toledo Inauguration Day dress (be sure to scroll down) was one-of-a-kind, but you can take inspiration from Michelle Obama’s unusual placement choice by pinning a similar sparkling brooch in the same place. For best results, pair with a round-collared coat. This bow-shaped brooch is adorned with Austrian crystal rhinestones in marquise and round cuts, in a shape that is simultaneously contemporary and classic, (not to mention collectible). Eisenberg Ice Bow Pin $45 at MRJewelry.net.
STYLE TIP: For even more unusual ways to wear a sparkly pin, try pinning a wide satin ribbon at your waist instead of a belt, perhaps threading it through a cardigan’s buttonholes as a makeshift closure, or even pinning onto a cashmere beret Gossip Girl-style.
4. LIGHTWEIGHT CARDI Although the J. Crew cardigan ensemble she wore to the Kids Inaugural concert is already sold out, you can still get the punchy color from Gap’s new line in collaboration with Pantone. Chock full of Crayola colors and vibrant hues, it’s a guaranteed way to breathe some fresh life into the doldrums of a flagging economy (not to mention your wardrobe). Superfine cotton and slimmer fit emphasize a feminine figure, while the staggering array of colors – sunny yellow to sorbet orange, tan to teal, black to heather gray – means you’re guaran
teed to find something you love. And the best part? This closet staple is lightweight enough to be worn year-round, making it a sound investment as a layering essential. The new V-neck Cardigan $44 at Gap.com. (Michelle Obama image: dailymail.co.uk)
STYLE TIP: Pair your brightly colored cardi with shoes in a darker hue & a contrasting skirt; snappy combinations include yellow & jewel blue, royal blue& orange sorbet, and spring green with light coral. For an added touch of First Lady fab, cinch with a thin belt worn high on the natural waistline.
5. PATENT BALLET FLATS Steal a page from the Michelle Obama style playbook by pairing a structured dress with an understated flat. Whether you choose go-with-everything black, a metallic snakeskin to rock the season’s reptilian trend, or even sweet white satin, you’ll look Mrs. O-perfect whether you’re in a chic frock, more mod with bright tights and a mini, or slouching casually out the door in cuffed boyfriend jeans. Keepsake black crinkle-patent flats $59.00 at SteveMadden.com.
STYLE TIP: Gently rounded-toe ballet flats are one of the best fashion investments you can make…ever. They are versatile, comfy, and because you can wear them for years, they quickly pay for themselves.
Splurge of the Week: ONE-SHOULDERED GOWN Although she wears many high-end designers, one of the best facets of Mrs. O’s style is that she mixes high with low, proudly sporting pieces from affordable retailers. While the one-shouldered Jason Wu confection she wore to the Inaugural Ball is probably out of most of our pricepoints – a typical Wu evening gown retails between $3,000-$6,000, and the designer has no plans to reproduce the dress for sale – try a similar style that was featured on Inside Edition from eDressMe.com. Even though it only costs about a tenth as much, this version still features a single ruched shoulder with embellishment, a high waist, and a floor-length skirt, as well as tiny flowered sequins similar to the hand-sewn flowers on Mrs. O’s custom dress. One-shoulder white gown $320 at eDressMe.com.
STYLE TIP: With a dress this gorge, the only thing appropriate would be a miniscule white evening clutch to let the ball gown’s beauty shine on its own.
If there are any high-priced pieces you’d like me to find similar, less costly versions of, please email me at carlyjcais AT fashiontribes DOT com.
– by Carly J. Cais, Fashiontribes Contributing Editor