Inaugural fashions: The swearing in

Obama Inauguration

There are so many things to say about the inauguration and our new president and first family, but this article is just going to focus on the fashion aspect of the inauguration. We got an early glimpse of Michelle Obama’s outfit this morning, as she attended church services with her husband in Washington. She wore a textured yellow-gold shift dress and long, matching jacket. The dress, I believe, had a built-in jeweled neckpiece, and when the sun hit the dress and jacket, the fabric gave off a sparkle that made me think there was some beading. While on the podium, Michelle donned lime green gloves that looked snazzier than it sounds. Life & Style had details on the Isabel Toledo dress and coat.

A friend of Isabel Toledo, who designed the yellow dress that incoming First Lady Michelle Obama wore on Inauguration Day, tells Life & Style that Michelle’s choice is a reflection of her great sense of style. “I wasn’t surprised at all that she [Michelle] chose Isabel Toledo,” Patricia Mears, deputy director of the Museum at NYC’s Fashion Institute of Technology, tells Life & Style. “Mrs. Obama is an unusual woman with great fashion instincts and innate style. And she has always supported lesser-known designers like Thakoon, Narciso Rodriguez and Isabel Toledo,” adds Mears, who has been friends with Toledo for 15 years.

“Isabel was very cognizant of two things when she designed this outfit. She knew all eyes would be on Michelle. And she knew that it would be very cold out. So she designed something that was very sophisticated and very warm. The upper part of the coat and the back of the sleeve are all lined with a pashmina lining for extra warmth around the torso. The fabric and color are also very sophisticated. There’s an intricate layering of lace laid over wool. And Isabel calls the color lemongrass, which I think is so elegant. I saw the original pattern a few weeks ago. At that time even Isabel didn’t know if Mrs. Obama would wear this design. Unlike other first ladies, Mrs. Obama didn’t choose a suit. She chose a sheath, something that skims the body. Isabel Toledo is considered the ultimate designer for designers. She calls herself a dressmaker, not a designer. She really looks at the artisanal craftsmanship of every single garment.”

“When Mrs. Obama wore Isabel’s jersey tunic and pants to a fundraiser in New York City, she didn’t work with Isabel. So Isabel was completely surprised. Isabel was really hoping that she’d wear something of hers for the inauguration. But she wanted to make sure it was a day outfit. Isabel is really down to earth, and she wanted this outfit to be something American women could actually wear. Isabel’s design shows Mrs. Obama truly wants to create a balance of the new and innovative with things that are classic and traditional. And that’s the ideal for every first lady. To have someone supporting this unique voice will really give American fashion a boost.”

[From Life & Style]

The Obama daughters weren’t seen until they arrived at the inaugural podium. J. Crew announced ahead of time that both girls would be wearing specially-designed J. Crew coats. Malia, the older daughter, looked absolutely beautiful in a bright blue-purple coat with a satin belt at the waist. Sasha wore a lovely pink coat with a complimenting pale orange scarf. Both girls wore their hair down and looked angelic.

Most of the guest were wearing drab and dark colors, but there were a few pops of brightness. Both Hillary Clinton and Nancy Pelosi opted for shades of lavender, with Pelosi going for a beautiful violet, and Hillary going for a more “royal” purple. Jill Biden went with a striking red coat. Laura Bush looked a little boring in a double-breasted dove-gray suit and matching coat. Mary Robinson, Michelle’s mother, pulled on a bright red knit cap and scarf on the podium, and Craig Robinson (Michelle’s brother) looked like an average guy out walking his dog, just wearing a simple coat and striped scarf.

I can’t wait to see what everybody’s going to wear for the inaugural balls – that will be when we see all of the better fashions. But for now, I have to admit, even though I’m not that crazy about Michelle’s outfit, she was probably the best dressed woman there.

Barack Obama Is Sworn In As 44th President Of The United States
Barack Obama Is Sworn In As 44th President Of The United States

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39 Responses to “Inaugural fashions: The swearing in”

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  1. Ron says:

    I like that she wore color and didn’t choose red or blue, which are common place at the swearing in ceremony. I thought the outfit was very fashion forward and I also love that she didn’t choose a huge name like Lauren, Klein or de la Renta. It looked beuatiful in the sun. I would have picked different shoes, but overall it was elegant and beuatiful and the crystal collar detail was great!

  2. says:

    oh happy day!!!

  3. daisy424 says:

    Congratulations to our new President and his family!
    Our new First Lady looked fabulous! She absolutely shined. The detail on her outfit is gorgeous.
    The girls look precious in their outfits as well. The picture of Sasha smiling at her Dad says it all.

    I’m looking forward to see what Michelle is wearing tonight!
    Kaiser, thanks for this thread, I was hoping CB would cover this.

  4. javelin says:

    Michelle’s outfit is divine… Toledo seems to have a deep knowledge of women’s fashion and a clear vision of her abilities as a designer.

  5. Mairead says:

    I really like Michelle’s outfit; unusual colour, lovely layering of textures and quirky accessories. Ticks all my boxes!

    The eldest daughter looked so lovely – great colour on that coat. Without wanting to seem like I’m favouring one child over another, she definitely has her father’s sense of presence.

    But the younger one steals the show with eye-catching colours and seriously cute shoes…. I wonder if they come in EUR39? LOL

  6. Kaiser says:

    I thought the Obama girls just looked stunning – and they stole the whole “pre-show” part. Once they came on stage, everyone was looking at them.

    I just can’t figure out if that jeweled think at Michelle’s neck is a necklace or something built-in to the dress.

  7. Kaiser says:

    *thing, not think. My bad.

  8. Diva says:

    I think it’s a collar on the dress.

    I love the outfit! I love that she went with such a unique color. I’m partial to the retro feel of the design, too. Very nice!

  9. someone says:

    the camera absolutely loves his daughters; how cute were they??

    I wish Michelle’s outfit was a different color, though she was stylish.

  10. Baholicious says:

    I think her outfit was really dated looking. The colour was smashing on her though as was the decision of the olive gloves and shoes. I’d really like to see her do ‘something’ with her hair.

  11. HEB says:

    Why does everyone keep calling Michelle’s dress/coat yellow? Its effing green, ok!? Or ok, its yellowgrass, but its not yellow.

    I thought everyone looked beautiful. The girls’ coats were very nice. I also liked Laura Bush’s outfit, I thought it was more flattering, but demure at the same time–she let Michelle have the spotlight (as she should)

  12. vdantev says:

    A classic, but not quite dated looking. That pattern is busy as hell though.

  13. Bodhi says:

    I think they all looked very good. Those girls are the cutest things ever!

  14. Annie says:



    And I adore Michelle. She’s going to make an amazing first lady.

  15. KateNonymous says:

    @HEB, to my eye it’s more yellow than green. Sometimes on TV it looked like a much brighter yellow than in these shots. Maybe it depends on the lighting. I can see why you’re so adamant, though.

    I also think it was appropriate for Laura Bush’s clothing to be “boring,” and I suspect she chose that intentionally. As the wife of the outgoing president, she is supposed to get less attention, and I’m sure she understands the “politics” of clothing.

  16. NotBlonde says:

    The girls’ outfits were gorgeous. They looked age-appropriate but sophisticated at the same time.

    I love Michelle’s outfit. The color was unusual and she’s regal enough to carry the elaborate fabric.

  17. guest says:

    loved jill’s entire ensemble. not really feeling michelle’s, she could’ve done better. the girls looked fab especially malia.

  18. Iris says:

    Laura Bush is a politician’s wife, and obviously chose to be understated with her fashion choices. she’s the outgoing First Lady, obviously the spotlight should not be on her. she wasn’t boring, she was just being smart.

  19. Me2 says:

    Heb, her dress looked more mustardy-green on my TV, too, but I checked w/friends and it was a yellow-to-orange on theirs.

    Green tone = bad on her, yellow or orange, just right.

    But the style was very flattering and first lady-ish.

  20. girl says:

    I loved Michelle Obama’s outfit. I don’t know I would have gone as far as the green gloves but she looked beautiful.

    Their children are gorgeous as well. Very cute girls.

    That said, what the crap was up with Aretha Franklin’s hat?

  21. texasmom says:

    When I first saw her outfit I didn’t like it, especially the color. But I liked it more and more the longer I saw it. I think the color looked great in close ups but sort of washed out and yellowy from a distance. Have you ever worn a red and white striped shirt that looked great nearby but made you look like you were nude from a distance? Kind of like that!

  22. rottenkitty says:

    I thought the wool lace of the First Lady’s dress was gorgeous. The color was lovely and the gloves were a gutsy choice.

    Maybe everyone is used to the upholstered-sofa fashion choices of the former female resident of the White House, so it might take a while for people to get used to someone with actual taste in the White House.

  23. MaiGirl says:

    I agree, Michelle should have chosen different shoes. Also, I’m not crazy about the outfit, but she looked good. I would love to see Michelle hooked up with a designer (and great if it is another little-known) who can really showcase her good looks and fab bod consistently.

  24. Bodhi says:

    I LOVED Areatha’s hat!! I wish I could rock a sweet hat like that!

  25. DLR in Canada says:

    Big frump is what I thought. The dress actually made Michelle look fat, if not pregnant. Not to mention the colour is a big wash-out and did nothing to Michelle’s complexion. Big thumbs down. I thought Jill Biden looked great. Michelle should have taken fashion cues from her.

  26. Diva says:

    I’m with Bodhi on Aretha’s hat! I wish I could pull that look off!!!

    I also didn’t like Michelle’s shoes, but that was all, the dress was nice, the coat was divine, the gloves were perfection!

  27. NotBlonde says:

    Hey hey hey, in the black community if you are over the age of 50 you wear your Church Hat to fancy functions. This is the damn fanciest function of them all so Aretha had to rock the Church Hat.

    (By the way, for those who are about to jump me for being “racist”, I’m African American and had a very dear grandmother who would turn out a Church Hat on a 90 degree day so kindly keep your comments to yourselves.)

  28. czarina says:

    I thought Michelle made a bold and interesting choice; I initially didn’t think much of the dress, but it really grew on me the more I saw it, and I loved the details (like the lace).
    The oldest daughter, though, was stunning in her blue coat…and, yes, Mairead hit it completely: the girl has a real presence. The youngest is a total cutie pie (what a smile!).
    I agree Laura Bush showed good taste in not even attempting to outshine the incoming first lade. Whatever anyone may think of her husband, Laura Bush is a classy woman.
    However, contrary to popular opinion (at least on this thread) I liked Michelle’s shoes!!

  29. Alyson says:

    I have a large desire to know who designed Nancy Pelosi’s coat… BECAUSE I WANT ONE. Anyone have any idea?

  30. Cheyenne says:

    I liked Michelle’s dress. It looked sort of lemongrass yellow on my TV. The olive green shoes and gloves were a nice compliment and they didn’t clash with the dress.

    The little girls looked lovely.

    Jill Biden’s outfit looked very good on her and I was glad to see she had sense enough to wear boots in that cold.

    I buy a lot of J.Crew. They have really nice clothes that don’t cost an arm and a leg, and if you shop on their web site you can usually find a lot of stuff on sale.

  31. Aspen says:

    Personally, I thought Mrs. Obama’s dress was gorgeous and appropriate and had a great color that popped just right. Modest, feminine, and understated…but color that contrasted with her beautiful face.

    The shoes were a crime. Seriously. They couldn’t do better than that? But…loved the gloves.

    As for Laura Bush. Keep your snarky crap off of her. She has always shown grace and dressed appropriately. Her style has always been tailored and neat and old-fashioned. She also knows her place in events like these. It was Michelle’s day…not hers.

  32. firstTimeCommenter says:

    I thought Michelle looked like a queen! Being used to a more colorful culture, I am usually bored with the plain, demure and (sometimes boring) attire in any official functions. But this dress…it had everything: texture (of the lace on coat), uncommon color, striking jewelry, graceful gloves. Yes, she seemed very royal to me.

    The girls are super cute.

    Poor President, no one talks about him :). He looked very handsome in his red tie.

  33. breederina says:

    Aretha’s hat was bona fide church lady fierce ! And that is saying something, loved it . Agree the only sour note in Mrs. O’s outfit was the shoes.
    Who saw the balls tonight ? The O’s looked so gorgeous, and when they danced to Beyonce singing “At Last” I actually wept. Again. ZOMG, is today the start of 4 years of uncontrollable weeping ?

  34. mich says:

    it’s interesting what some here commented. Malia has this calm, collected, yet undeniable presence like her da. yet she looks more like her mom! sasha is the opposite. very interesting indeed…

    wished michelle could’ve worn another shoe. maybe more similar in color to what she’s wearing, or a bit chunkier to balance the gloves.

    hehehe. this is a historical milestone yet what i’m commenting is on their fashion sense. silly me.

  35. jkate says:

    Why isn’t anyone talking about Jill Biden’s boots? How awesome is it that the vice president’s wife wears boots like that to the inauguration??

  36. KDRockstar says:

    Loved Michelle’s dress (and they lined it with wool, so she would be somewhat warm).

    Hated the gloves. Did not want to see them touching the Lincoln Bible.

    Loved the big ol’ church hat. Aretha can wear whatevah she wants… she’s earned it.

  37. FashionWatch1 says:

    Michelle’s photo in the yellow inauguration dress should appear under the In Style heading “when bad fashion happens to good people.” This dress, like the election night gown, was a fashion disaster. From wearing a rhinestone studded collar to a daytime swearing in ceremony, to the color (were red, white or blue even considered for our nation’s historic event?) to the mismatched GREEN gloves and shoes (each a different shade of green), the fashion world will be left speechless and in search of a new fashion icon for the next four years.

  38. girl says:

    I agree Aretha can rock whatever she wants to. Not my favorite look (and I love hats). Yes, I am familiar with Church Hat. It always reminded me of that event in England where everyone wears unusual hats, their clothes tend to be understated (I didn’t see her whole outfit, I only saw a pic of her from midchest up). I didn’t catch Michelle’s shoes either. I do think green is a great color on her though.

  39. Lamb says:

    Michelle’s outfit grew on me too–the color was a surprise and the texture was inspired! I thought she looked elegant and original. (Would have liked a more substantial heel but she walked easily in it.)

    The gown disappointed me at first but when I saw a full length shot of it I had a better impression–the long sweep was enchanting. Hard to see the detail and sparkle in photos. My guess is that the beauty of it would be more obvious if seen in person. Michelle herself seems to enjoy her clothing choices and always looks at ease in them.

    Kudos to Laura Bush for choosing understatement even though it was somber–I guessed right away that she was respecting that it was the Obama’s day to shine.

    And Aretha’s hat was pure joy! That lady was celebrating!

    What a delight it is to have a First Family that is COLORFUL in all senses of the word!