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Thursday, June 24, 2010

Fashion designers take note of Michelle Obama

First Lady Michelle Obama has become something of a muse to several New York designers, who showed pre-fall 2010 collections in December that reflected signature elements of her style.

"She's a fashion icon, an inspiration for designers," Sasha Charnin Morrison, fashion director at Us Weekly, said in an interview. "Instead of looking at historical figures, which doesn't really work anymore, they are looking to someone so modern, who takes risks and wears clothes so well." The magazine recently bowed to Obama's fashion prowess -- and unspoken sex appeal -- by including her slinky but stately strapless Naeem Khan gown in a spread of best red-carpet dresses from 2009, alongside Angelina Jolie, Megan Fox and Blake Lively.

Pre-collections are shown without the hoopla of runway collections to a select group of buyers and minimal press. Generally comprising a designer's most wearable pieces, pre-collections often supply the bulk of a store's inventory.

Obama could easily have stepped into one Oscar de la Renta pre-fall ensemble -- a runway mash-up of her trademark looks, starting with a belted coral cashmere cardigan that was a ladies-who-lunch, luxury version of her redoubtable J. Crew sweater. Underneath, a full-skirted day dress sported a bold floral print in coordinating pinks and soft browns. The sweater was accented with its own tromp l'oeil beaded flower "brooch."

Carolina Herrera also picked up on the floral pin motif, notably in a draped cobalt-blue short-sleeved dress, accented with a brooch in the same color. (Obama wore a similar shade of blue recently in Hawaii for a trip to the zoo.) Since Herrera and De La Renta have yet to dress the first lady, maybe these familiar gestures were an exasperated bid for a little more attention, a pique of chic.

Elie Tahari covered the casual side of the first lady's style with his deep-lapeled zip jacket, which was a ringer for an oft-worn piece in her wardrobe designed by Azzedine Alaia. All Obama would have to do is replace the skin-tight black leggings of the runway with her favorite straight-leg trousers and she would be good to go, especially since Tahari thoughtfully accessorized the look with a beaded necklace complete with -- need it be said -- attached floral brooches.