As if all the fuss over her lemongrass Isabel Toledo inauguration ensemble followed by the one-shouldered Jason Wu ivory gown weren’t enough to solidify Michelle Obama’s newfound fashion icon status, now comes the Vogue cover.
Photographed by Annie Leibovitz at the Hay-Adams Hotel in Washington, D.C., Michelle is only the second first lady ever to be featured on the cover of the fashion bible, after Hillary Clinton.
But in a rather un-Vogue-like move, not a single big, sweeping glamorous designer gown is to be found anywhere. Instead, Michelle worked closely with the magazine to choose pieces from her own wardrobe—staying true to her well-known style of mixing mainstream and affordable with fresh, up-and-coming designers.
The simple yet stunning and vibrant magenta silk dress on the cover is another design by Jason Wu. She also appears in the magazine wearing Narciso Rodriguez (of election night infamy) and her trusty all-American favorite, J.Crew.
It was probably a wise decision on Michelle’s part to keep the fashion toned down—not only does she avoid being accused of overspending in a crappy economy, but André Leon Talley’s accompanying article is so over-the-top Vogue it completely cancels out any down-to-earth J. Crew credits.
The article is full of Talley’s boasts, including “I first met Mrs Obama at an impromptu dinner at Oprah Winfrey’s; seated between the then Sen. Barack Obama’s wife and Tina Turner” and “I lived the American Dream in Grant Park that evening, too.”
Luckily, in between the name dropping, Michelle gets the chance to address those disapproving fashion critics who did not like her wearing a black cardigan over the Narciso Rodriguez cocktail dress on election night:
“I’m not going to pretend that I don’t care about it, but I also have to be very practical. In the end, someone will always not like what you wear—people just have different tastes. Some will think that a sweater was horrible, [but] I was cold; I needed that sweater!”
And she’s not going to let the critics ruin her fun, admitting: “I love clothes. First and foremost, I wear what I love. That’s what women have to focus on: what makes them happy and what makes them feel comfortable and beautiful. If I can have any impact, I want women to feel good about themselves and have fun with fashion.”
In the end Oprah probably best sums up the fascination with Michelle when she tells Talley, “Michelle Obama is a full-blown, grown-up woman. An authentically empowered real woman who looks and feels like a modern woman in the twenty-first century, allowing us to see the best of ourselves in her. [She’s] bringing a sense of connection and accessibility to that position that no nation has ever witnessed.”