- Michelle Obama, who celebrates her birthday on January 17, has long been considered a fashion icon.
- Many of her most memorable looks were for state dinners, including a controversial Alexander McQueen dress and a glistening Versace gown.
- Some of her best looks were by Indian-American designer Naeem Khan, who’s made several statement dresses for the former FLOTUS.
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
During her eight years as first lady, Obama wore pieces from notables like Tom Ford and Marchesa, while also bringing young designers of colour into the spotlight, too â€” all while Obama herself became a fashion icon.
Here are 20 of Michelle Obama’s best and most memorable looks.
In 2008, Michelle Obama wore a memorable fiery red dress on election night.
She paired the Narciso Rodriguez dress with a simple black cardigan.
“The dress was utterly flattering with its black criss-cross waist,” Verena von Pfetten at HuffPost wrote in 2008, “and the elongating blend of red into black delightfully accentuated her statuesque stature. And mostly, it was interesting to look at. Which is something to be said with regards to the usual wallflower role to which First Ladies are usually relegated – a role to which I’d imagine Michelle Obama would not take kindly, dress or no dress.”
At the inaugural ball in 2009, Obama stunned in a white gown.
Designed by Jason Wu, the dress featured organza flowers.
“No details of the dress were released before the balls and Wu did not know that Mrs. Obama had selected his design, which he intended to symbolise hope, until he saw it on television,” according to the Smithsonian’s website.
That same year, Obama solidified herself as a fashion icon when she wore a champagne-coloured gown to a state dinner.
Obama paired the dress by Indian-American designer Naeem Khan with a shawl.
In 2011, she wore a flashy red gown to a state dinner that turned heads and caused a controversy.
At a state dinner with China, Obama wore a gown by British designer Alexander McQueen, which angered many American designers who felt she should have worn an American dress.
“I like to patronize American designers, and the vast majority of the clothes that I wear are [designed by Americans,]” Obama said in response to the controversy. “But there are a lot of other designers that have cute stuff, too. I don’t think that I’m any different from any other woman, other than the fact that people see what I wear and then they talk about it.”
A white gown Obama wore during a 2011 trip to London remains one of her best looks.
She wore the airy Tom Ford gown to a banquet with the Queen.
In 2012, Obama wore a simple blue gown but dressed it up with a statement necklace.
Wearing a Marchesa gown, Obama greeted then-British Prime Minister David Cameron at a state dinner.
“First lady Mrs. Obama always looks so chic and modern,” Roksanda Ilincic, who dressed Obama for the event, told NBC News at the time. “I love the addition of texture with the Tom Binns necklace.”
For her second Inauguration Day parade, in 2013, Obama wore a knee-length coat with a belt.
The Thom Browne coat was made from men’s neckties.
“She’s such a strong woman,” Browne told The New York Times at the time. “I wanted her to feel good in it and to feel comfortable, strong, feminine, and beautiful.”
Obama also wore a silvery dress to announce the winner of 2013’s Academy Award for best picture.
Obama’s dress was made by Naeem Khan. She paired it with sparkly earrings.
In 2014, she wore a billowy, blue gown to a state dinner.
Carolina Herrera designed this dress for Obama’s French state dinner.
“Obama has previously favoured younger, up-and-coming designers, but for this state dinner chose a veteran of the American fashion industry,” Cara Kelly at The Washington Post wrote at the time. “Herrera, a Venezuelan native, has been producing evening wear since 1981.”
At the 100th annual White House Correspondents’ Dinner in 2014, Obama wore a detailed white dress.
This Marchesa grown had a dropped shoulder and a draped sleeve with embroidered details that really made it stand out amongst the crowd of A-listers.
At a state dinner with China’s prime minister in 2015, Obama wore a dress that many call her best look to date.
The off-the-shoulder, mermaid-style gown was designed by Vera Wang.
“The first lady’s look – hair gathered in that vintage sultry side sweep popular on red carpets and the form-fitting frock’s silhouette – hearkened back to old Hollywood glamour,” Helena Andrews-Dyer at the Washington Post wrote at the time. “It was a very Veronica Lake moment. The custom dress was silk crepe with a V-neckline, delicate tulle sleeves, and an organza pleated skirt.”
Obama’s yellow, simple dress at 2016’s State of the Union address made waves throughout the fashion world.
The Narciso Rodriguez dress sold out online before the address was even finished.
Obama wowed the fashion world again at a state dinner in 2016.
The pale dress was another one designed by Naeem Khan.
At her final state dinner, Obama wore a glistening Versace dress.
“Bellissima!” The Hollywood Reporter wrote in 2016. “Michelle Obama attended her 14th White House state dinner – her last as first lady – and you can bet she made it one to remember in fashion history.”
At Donald Trump’s inauguration in 2017, Obama wore a red coat dress.
For her final outfit as FLOTUS, Obama wore Jason Wu, marking a significant end.
“Michelle Obama officially left her position as first lady after the inauguration on Friday, but her fashion legacy will continue to cast a long shadow on her successors,” Erika Harwood at Vanity Fair wrote in 2017.
In 2017, Obama kicked the little black dress up a notch in her first public appearance since leaving the White House.
The Cushnie et Ochs dress had a unique neckline that caught the attention of many at the ESPYS in Los Angeles.
In 2018, Obama embarked on a six-month book tour where she wore some of her best looks, like this white outfit.
The off-the-shoulder top brought some sparkle, while the pants were simple and high-waisted.
Obama sported a black pantsuit with an eye-catching accessory on her book tour, too.
Christopher Kane crafted this memorable pantsuit.
Obama made a statement on her book tour with this purple pantsuit.
“Just that sliver of a slinky, sexy, sparkly, curve-hugging piece set this suit apart from the kind we became accustomed to seeing Michelle wear in the White House,” Hannah Weil McKinley at Popsugar wrote in 2019. “While her outfits when Barack was in office were deliberate, crafted with the acute awareness of her obvious visibility (and the criticism that often came with it), this look – and the many others on her book tour – seems to be a happy departure from that.”
In 2019, Obama wore one of her most daring dresses yet.
At the Smithsonian’s American Portrait Gala in 2019, Obama wore a Schiaparelli haute couture gown, which had a bust neckline.
“The inspiration for the shape originally came from the crinoline, which is often found underneath couture gowns, but the real starting point for the overall look was the colour,” Schiaparelli’s creative director, Daniel Roseberry, said in a statement in 2019. “The acidic tone echoes Elsa Schiaparelli’s signature shocking pink, and we also felt that it matched the strength and energy of Mrs. Obama. It was such an honour to make this special gown for her.”
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