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Michelle Obama, first lady of style

November 5, 2008 |  9:11 am

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Move over, Carla Bruni, there's a new fashion first lady on the scene.

The black-and-red Narciso Rodriguez dress that Michelle Obama wore in Chicago last night was another daring fashion choice, a straight-from-the spring-runway style that she paired with a black cardigan. The blogs are burning up with opinions about it (most of them negative), but I liked it -- the symbolism of patriotic red bursting out of black like a firecracker out of the night sky.

Next to Jill Biden in her skirt suit, Obama looked like a breath of chic air. Something tells me that Washington is about to become a very stylish place.

The comparisons to Jackie Kennedy are really off the mark. Kennedy's style was rooted in Paris, in the haute couture dresses she worked with Oleg Cassini to replicate.

Michelle may know how to rock a strand of pearls, but she has her own approach to style. Over the past few months, she has mixed designer dresses from young American fashion talents such as Rodriguez and Thakoon Panichgul with cheap-chic finds from J. Crew and H&M, which is a much more modern way to dress than wearing head-to-toe designer. Even if you could afford to spend $150,000 in one month on a designer wardrobe, would you want to? Not if you are a sensible woman and a real fashion enthusiast, someone who enjoys the thrill of the hunt for that perfect $30 black-and-white Gap sundress Obama wore on the Fourth of July. (The Times' Stephanie Lysaght has pulled together a few fashion moments from the campaign here.)

Dresses are becoming a Michelle Obama signature. By choosing to wear them so much of the time, she has set herself apart from all the St. John pantsuit-wearing Washington insiders. Dresses look wonderful on her, accenting her height and her figure, showing off her legs. They are easy too, since you don't have to worry about a matching blouse or jacket.

Just think of all the designers salivating over the idea of making her inaugural gown. You can bet it won't be a traditional choice from Oscar de la Renta or Carolina Herrera, but it will be fabulous.

-- Booth.Moore@latimes.com

Booth Moore is the Los Angeles Times fashion critic

Photo: Joe Raedle / Getty Images

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