Colgate Couture – Michelle O: Jackie O 2.0?

Laura Stoloff

Goodbye St. John pantsuit. Hello, Maria Pinto dresses. In the next year the White House will undergo a style revolution. With Michelle Obama in the President’s Palace, first-lady fashion will become a media favorite once again. The 2008 election offered more than simple suits and dowdy dresses where the leading ladies, Cindy McCain and Michelle Obama, dressed with an unprecedented sophistication while also staying youthful. The candidates and their wives seemed to receive more press about the cost of their clothing than the issues that really mattered. But in this day and age, there’s no excuse for a fashion faux-pas, especially when you’re in the spotlight amongst millions.

Fashion took hold of the White House with Jackie Kennedy, who became an American icon by her impeccable sense of style. Jackie’s clothing reflected glamour and regality with its simple shapes and emphasis on dresses. Her modern elegance came from bold colors and clean lines.

And during this election, critics believe Michelle Obama could possibly become a new first lady known for her fashion-forward thinking. Michelle won critics and voters with her laid back attitude and practicality towards fashion. Rather than donning a thousand dollars suit, Michelle opted for clothes from J.Crew and the Gap, favoring neutral tones and minimal makeup. But she also mixed these low-end finds with American fashion designers such as Narciso Rodriguez and Thakoon Panichgul. It looked incredibly appealing and was refreshing to see a candidate’s wife in clothes that speak to the common people.

Always understated, Michelle appeared relaxed and confident in her clothing on the campaign trails. At 44 years old, she is also the youngest presidential wife since Jackie Kennedy, which gives her the ability to experiment with her fashion choices, playing with different colors, patterns and shape. Don’t expect to see Michelle in pantsuits any time soon. Instead of the traditional suiting favored by past first ladies (think the horrible box shape suits of Hilary Clinton), Michelle’s 6-foot figure fits perfectly with ’60’s style shift dresses like those worn by Jackie Kennedy.

Viewers are quick to follow. Michelle Obama has favored a local designer from Chicago, Maria Pinto, who before the election was virtually unknown. But with the emergence of the poppy plum sheath by Pinto, buyers from Barneys New York and Saks Fifth Avenue are eager for her business. Pinto’s retail orders have increased 45 percent in the last 12 months and around 16 specialty stores will carry her clothing next spring.

Michelle, like Jackie, exudes a modern elegance that transformed on the campaign trails. She began with very safe choices from Talbots and Ann Taylor and quickly moved to sleeveless dresses. Michelle couldn’t have looked better in the poppy plum sleeveless dress that she paired with a black patent leather belt and classic pearls. It’s rather unusual to see leading women in politics to expose their arms and accentuate the most womanly aspect of the body: the waist. By moving away from patterns and wearing solid colors, Michelle’s frame looked particularly flattering and resembled the 1960’s understated elegance. ??????

Surprising, however, was Michelle’s choice for election night in Chicago on Tuesday. Heavily criticized, bloggers felt Michelle’s Narciso Rodriguez dress did nothing for her figure. Unflattering or not, Michelle made a true fashion statement that looked bold and energetic. Straight off the spring runway, the dress resembled a firework setting off into the dark sky, a sign of power and excitement. And to tame it down, Michelle paired the dress with a black cardigan to cover her arms.

Some critics believe the White House will become a fashion show for all to see, while others find little comparisons between Michelle and Jackie O, as most of Jackie’s fashion routed from Italy and Paris. But who is to say Michelle won’t take American designers under her wing to create a fashion powerhouse at the White House. ?