First Lady Inaugural Ball gowns: Michelle wears Jason Wu again


First lady Michelle Obama stands with designer Jason Wu in front of her 2009 inaugural gown on Mar. 9, 2010, at the Smithsonian Museum of American History.


Mark Wilson

Yes, the important part of a US presidential inauguration is the commander-in-chief swearing to uphold the Constitution for the next four years.

But what does everyone remember? What the First Lady wore to the inaugural balls.

"The first lady is both an American celebrity and one of the most visible representatives of the nation. She's 'our' first lady and our pride and interest, and curiosity, extends to what she wears," Lisa Kathleen Graddy, the curator of The Smithsonian's First Ladies Collection at the National Museum of American History, told CNN.

First Ladies typically make safe choices when it comes to their inaugural gowns, but Michelle Obama surprised us in 2009 when she picked a one-shouldered white gown designed by a little-known 26-year-old named Jason Wu.

Most first ladies "fall into the trap of dressing to fit in," fashion editor Kate Betts, author of "Everyday Icon: Michelle Obama and the Power of Style,” told the Wall Street Journal. "She took the opposite tack: She dressed to stand out."

This year, the First Lady’s office requested clothes for the weekend’s events from almost 20 designers, Women’s Wear Daily reported. These include Michael Kors, Derek Lam, Naeem Khan, Marchesa’s Georgina Chapman and Keren Craig, Prabal Gurung, Jason Wu, Bibhu Mohapatra, Thakoon Panichgul, Tracy Reese, Chris Benz, Tory Burch, Narciso Rodriguez, Zac Posen, Maria Cornejo, Thom Browne, Barbara Tfank and Laura Smalls.

Her pick: Jason Wu again. She debuted the red velvet and chiffon design at the Commander-in-Chief Ball, joining President Barack Obama for a dance to "Let's Stay Together" sung by Jennifer Hudson.

It’s only fashion, but Mrs. Obama knows that what she wears will help define the early part of the 21st century in the public memory.

"When we look at the gown that Jackie Kennedy wore 50 years ago, or the one that Mary Todd Lincoln wore more than a hundred years before that, it really takes us beyond the history books and the photographs, and it helps us understand that history is really made by real live people," Mrs. Obama said in March 2010, when her inaugural gown was added to the collection of First Ladies’ gowns at The Smithsonian, according to CNN.

"The detail of each gown — the fabric, the cut, the color — tells us something much more about each single first lady,” she added. “It's a visual reminder that we each come from such different backgrounds, from different generations, and from different walks of life."

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