First Lady Michelle Obama again picks designer Wu for inaugural gown

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - It was one of the biggest questions of Monday's inaugural celebrations: not what would President Barack Obama say, but what would his wife, Michelle Obama, wear?

The first lady cemented her reputation as an international style trend-setter with her choice of a Jason Wu red sleeveless ball gown in the evening, and a striking business-style blue navy coat and dress for the ceremonial daytime events.

It was a huge win for U.S. designer Wu making one of his ball gowns her choice for a second straight inauguration.

The first lady appeared for her first dance of the night with the president at the Commander-in-Chief's Ball for U.S. service members in a ruby-colored chiffon and full-length velvet gown custom made by the New York-based designer.

Her shoes were from the London-based Malaysian-Chinese designer Jimmy Choo, and she wore a diamond-embellished ring handmade by jeweler Kimberly McDonald of New York.

Michelle Obama helped make Wu a household name by choosing a white chiffon gown he designed for the balls celebrating her husband's first inauguration in 2009. Wu, now 30, has since had significant commercial success, but his creations in the two inaugurations has won him a place in U.S. fashion history.

Dressing the first lady, a Harvard-trained lawyer known for her style, can be a huge boost for a fashion designer or retail chain.

Praised for wearing high-end designers as well as pieces from mass-market stores, the first lady has won over fashion critics in her four years in the White House.

"Icon's a big word and it sometimes gets over used, but I think if we're going to use it, we can use it now," said Steven Kolb, chief executive of the Council of Fashion Designers of America, adding, "What makes her a real icon is the work that she does and the woman that she is."

Dresses, sweaters, shoes and belts she has worn have sold out at retailers from designer showrooms to mass market chains including Gap Inc., J. Crew and Target Corp., for which Wu has designed low-priced fashions.

Earlier on Monday, the first lady wore a navy coat and dress by designer Thom Browne, inspired by the fabric of a man's silk tie.

Her belt and gloves were from J.Crew, a chain that is a fixture in U.S. shopping malls; the necklace and earrings were designed by Cathy Waterman. The suede boots were by Reed Krakoff, as was the short blue cardigan she wore to a celebratory lunch in the Capitol.



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