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Michelle Obama's fashion tour de force

April 6, 2009 |  4:49 pm

Rage_bruni She wore American designers (Jason Wu, Thakoon) and European (Azzedine Alaia, Moschino), Japanese (Junya Watanabe) and J. Crew. Watching her in Europe, it became clear that getting dressed is much more than an official duty for Michelle Obama.

This is a woman who loves clothes. 

When she met French first lady Carla Bruni-Sarkozy at the NATO summit luncheon in Strasbourg, France, on Friday, it wasn't much of a fashion smackdown after all. Both women stuck to their pet designers -- Thakoon for Obama and Christian Dior for Bruni-Sarkozy. No surprises there.

Obama's shiny rose print sheath dress hugged every curve and said, "I'm not afraid to show my sexuality." By contrast, Sarkozy's demure dove gray leather coat and dress, her gamine-like flats and structured purse, seemed designed to make her disappear into the palace decor, and perhaps disguise her wild child, fashion model pedigree.

Rage_alaia The fit and color made the Thakoon dress Obama's best look of the trip, seconded by the Alaia suit (left) with articulated seams that she wore on Saturday in Strasbourg. (Bruni-Sarkozy's straight-line lavendar Dior coat and purple Chanel bag were pretty fab too.)

In Prague, Obama's white Moschino bow-front blouse, partly obscured by a belted black cardigan (below right), proved that sometimes the first lady would do better to leave the sweater at home. But in general, her clothes were an image-boosting hit.

She rose above the outmoded notion that an American first lady must wear only American-made clothes, and in doing so she helped underscore her husband's "we are all in this together" global message. Obama stayed true to herself, her signatures (triple strand pearls, low heeled pumps), and the designers she's had success with before, giving even wider exposure to a new generation of American talents. Rage_prague

But Women's Wear Daily reports that Seventh Avenue stalwarts such as Oscar de la Renta and Vera Wang are starting to get jealous. They have a point. If Obama is going to be a one-woman fashion bailout, she's going to need to start branching out. Oscar can make a beautiful floral sheath too.

--Booth Moore

For a photo gallery of Michelle Obama's European fashion tour, click here.

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Top photo: U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama, left, speaking with France's first lady Carla Bruni-Sarkozy before a luncheon at Rohan Palace as their husbands held bilateral talks in Strasbourg, eastern France, April 3. Credit: Pascal Segrette/Elysee Palace/Associated Press

Middle: Michelle Obama, left, and Carla Bruni-Sarkozy wave to media upon their arrival at Rohan Palace on April 4 in Strasbourg, France. Credit: Sean Gallup/Getty Images 

Bottom: President Obama and wife Michelle Obama wave to the crowd at Hradcany Square near Prague Castle in Prague, Czech Republic, on April 5. Credit: AFP/Getty Images 
 

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