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First Lady Michelle Obama’s fashion sense builds a following

obamamichelle112809_optBY SUSAN LOGUE
VOA NEWS

WASHINGTON — From the campaign trail to the White House, Michelle Obama has attracted attention. She was on the cover of Vogue magazine in March, and she appears on the cover of Glamour magazine's December issue. "Mrs. O," a blog devoted to Michelle Obama's fashion sense, has become so popular it has inspired a book. The woman behind both says there hasn't been a first lady in more than 40 years who has attracted this much attention for what she wears.

When the First Couple appeared in their formal wear for the inaugural balls last January, it was clear the President was pleased with the way the First Lady looked in her white chiffon, one shoulder gown, embroidered with flowers and crystals.

Although praise for the dress designed by Jason Wu wasn't unanimous, most critics have been enthusiastic about Mrs. Obama's flair for fashion.

Another First Lady recalled

"I think there is a way we feel about Michelle Obama that we haven't felt about a First Lady since Jackie Kennedy," says Mary Tomer.

That's what inspired Tomer to launch her blog, "Mrs. O." It led to the publication of her book, Mrs. O: the Face of Fashion Democracy. The blog features an update nearly every day with what the First Lady was last seen wearing.

It averages 10,000 hits a day, with visitors from more than 200 countries. "I think they are inspired to see a modern fashion-forward woman in this fantastic role and platform."

The First Lady's press secretary said she could not comment on Mrs. Obama's fashion. But however she gets the public's attention, the First Lady has used her platform to address a number of issues, from support for military families to women's health, and from music education to organic gardening.

"I've never come across anyone who is only interested in Michelle Obama's style," Tomer says. "We are interested in her accomplishments as a mother, wife, and professional, and captivated that she can pull it off with such a fantastic sense of style."

From designer wear to off-the-rack clothing

Mrs. Obama's sense of style was on display with creations like the lemongrass dress and coat by Cuban-American designer Isabel Toledo that the First Lady wore on Inauguration Day. But she also wears less expensive clothes. The outfit she wore to 10 Downing Street in April was from fashion retailer J Crew.

"When Michelle Obama wears a J Crew cardigan, sometimes you can see it sell out that day," Tomer says. "Everyday women, for the first time, have access to the same clothes that the First Lady is wearing and there is something very powerful and endearing about that."

The First Lady hasn't been without her critics. Some said wearing a cardigan to meet Queen Elizabeth was inappropriate. And the sleeveless Narcisso Rodriguez dress she wore to the President's first address to Congress was controversial. Some thought she should not have shown her bare arms in winter, especially at that occasion.

But Tomer says, "A lot of women see her fabulously toned arms as inspiration."

Her toned arms are once again being shown, this time on the cover of "Glamour Magazine." However, Michelle Obama is being recognized there not for her fashion sense, but for being a mentor to young women, something she did before becoming First Lady, when she was a practicing attorney.

 

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