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Something old, something new — nothing borrowed, but again Jason Wu.
That could describe First Lady Michelle Obama’s wardrobe for the Inaugural Weekend festivities, which she capped by stepping out at the two inaugural balls Monday night in a custom gown by the designer she catapulted to fame four years ago: Wu. She accessorized it with a handmade diamond ring by Kimberly McDonald and shoes by Jimmy Choo.
Of his second stint in the inaugural ball spotlight, an ecstatic Wu told WWD he was as shocked as anyone and just as nervous as last time. “Mrs. Obama likes to keep her secrets. She surprised me again. She’s really good at it,” he said. “I was so nervous. You’d think I wouldn’t be since I’d experienced it before but I really was.”
Unlike four years ago when he had three employees and was home with a friend eating pizza, this time around Wu was surrounded with his team of 30 in his airy downtown design studio. “I was just elated. It’s hard to describe,” he said.
The ruby-red custom woven faille coupé gown has a white gold ring with pavé diamonds at the collarbone thanks to McDonald. Wu said of the gown, which will be donated to the National Archives, “Like last time, I had to go with my gut. I instinctively had to think of the woman in the dress. After four years in office, I thought the country was ready to see a confident First Lady in red. It just felt right.”
Running to answer his parents’ phone call, Wu said he would soon be ordering in Champagne for his staffers. The night was still young — there was work to be done. “Fall’s coming up — you know that,” he said.
The Wu gown was only one of a string of ensembles the First Lady wore all weekend as she time and again brought her A-game, sporting an assortment of predominantly American designers, including a few unexpected labels. Like the President, who donned the same Brooks Brothers cashmere coat he wore for the 2009 Inaugural, the First Lady wasn’t afraid to repeat a few looks she’d been photographed in before. On Saturday night she chose a 2011 pre-spring white Alexander McQueen jacket and Sunday night called for a 2009 Michael Kors black sequined dress. But for the rest of the festivities, the First Lady went all out, wearing a host of one-of-a-kind designs made specifically for her by New York-based designers.
By 9 a.m. Monday, fashion insiders were excitedly texting and e-mailing her choice of a specially created navy silk tie jacquard Thom Browne ensemble for a prayer and church service, which she also wore to the swearing-in ceremony outside the Capitol. Even Browne, who was in Paris having just presented his men’s collection Sunday, was caught blindsided, getting the news via texts and e-mails from TV-viewing friends in New York. Champagne corks would fly later in the day at his hotel, once Browne had a chance to get used to what he described as “amazing and one of the most humbling moments of his career.” It will no doubt be a major boost for his women’s wear business, which has been generating buzz lately. (With Monday’s TV audience in the millions, more noise about the brand is a given.)