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04.24.2014

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May 18, 2009 8:20 PM

Fashion

Purple Reign: Michelle Obama Makes a Splash at the Met

It's a testament to Michelle Obama's power in the art and fashion communities that, in the minutes before she cut the ribbon reopening the Charles Engelhard Court of the Metropolitan Museum of Art's American Wing, a tableaux of New...

It's a testament to Michelle Obama's power in the art and fashion communities that, in the minutes before she cut the ribbon reopening the Charles Engelhard Court of the Metropolitan Museum of Art's American Wing, a tableaux of New York shuffled into the chairs under the renovated skylights. Walking in along with Aerin Lauder, Annette de la Renta, Ralph Lauren and Wendi Murdoch were several dozen public school students (represented by Beacon High School, Laguardia High School, P.S. 176 and P.S. 325). A few were dressed up -- one young man was spotted tucking in his white collared shirt -- but many had that artsy kid look: magenta-streaked hair, unlaced high-tops, bedhead hair. No matter: it was clearly the kids for whom Obama had shown up, though she graciously shook hands with the front row after speaking to the small crowd -- a number of well-coiffed, well-heeled donors made up the rest of the audience -- about the importance of all-inclusive arts organizations. She even had the audience giggling after mentioning that she had forgotten that her first date with the President was indeed at a museum, as the Met's president, Emily Rafferty, had noted in her introduction ("It was obviously wonderful," Obama said. "It worked!").

This is, of course, a fashion publication, so foremost on my mind was finding out what Obama was wearing. Her press team rarely sends out releases for such information -- one told me the First Lady isn't interested in sending out a news alert when she wears J. Crew slacks to walk the family dog -- but I was told the sheath and coat she showed up in were pre-fall Isaac Mizrahi. While I've been covering the First Lady's fashions since last fall, this was the first time I saw her in person, and I have to say the woman is not just a striking presence, but clearly an independent thinker when it comes to her clothes: As she worked her way through the sea of taupes and New York black, Obama's bright purple outfit leapt out (helpful for a press corps seated far from the important people).

A coup for Mizrahi, certainly, but the cycle of identifying an outfit and exalting in the choice (American or not? Small or established? Expensive or affordable?!) is definitely becoming exhausting.

On Monday evening, the First Lady was due to be at the American Ballet Theater opening, no doubt wearing a dress. And then another designer will have his or her moment -- at least until the next FLOTUS public appearance.
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