Musings on the culture of keeping up appearances

All the Rage

Category: Isabel Toledo

Michelle Obama gets all dolled up in newest 'flatwear' collection


The folks who gave us the presidential candidate paper dolls last year released a new book last month titledRage_obama_Narciso "President Barack Obama and His Family Paper Dolls: The Inaugural Edition." And while he may be the commander in chief on paper, the star of these pages is Michelle Obama (and to a lesser extent Sasha and Malia, who were given scant attention in the earlier book).

Among the six outfits included (the girls share four looks, the president himself has six, most of which are variations on his Hart Schaffner Marx suits) are the J. Crew cardigan, Italian Deco tank top and sheath skirt outfit Mrs. O was wearing on her Oct. 27, 2008, appearance on "The Tonight Show," the black-on-red Thakoon number she wore to the Democratic National Convention acceptance speech, her Jason Wu-designed silk chiffon inaugural ball gown, and the sunshine-yellow, custom-made Isabel Toledo dress and Jimmy Choo shoes she wore to the inauguration.

But our favorite is "Plate 8": the red-and-black satin Narciso Rodriguez dress and Loree Rodkin diamond bangle bracelets and earrings she was wearing on election night in Chicago. 

And maybe it's  just us, but Mrs. Obama looks pretty good on paper.

-- Adam Tschorn

"President Barack Obama and His Family Paper Dolls: The Inaugural Edition," by Tom Tierney (Dover Publications April, 2009).

Photos: The Obama family in Chicago's Grant Park on November 4, 2008. Credit: Joe Raedle / Getty Images. At right, the paper doll version of Michelle Obama's outfit from the same night as depicted in "President Barack Obama Paper Dolls."


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The designer behind Michelle Obama's Inaugural Day dress

Isabel Toledo michelle obama yellow dressIsabel Toledo, the  New York-based designer who made the lemon-grass yellow wool lace dress and coat Michelle Obama wore Tuesday, has been teaching at L.A.'s Otis College of Art and Design since the 1990s. Last year Rosemary Brantley, founding chairwoman of the school's fashion department, interviewed the designer and her fashion illustrator husband, Ruben Toledo, for a program at the Pacific Design Center. See highlights of the interview here:

-- Booth Moore


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Photo: Isabel and Ruben Toledo. Credit: Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times

Michelle Obama's inauguration wardrobe reviewed

Michelle_obama_inauguration wardrobe

Just as President Barack Obama turned the page on American history Tuesday in Washington, First Lady Michelle Obama is turning the page on American design. The lemon-grass wool lace ensemble she chose for the swearing-in ceremony wasn’t designed by one of the aging custodians of the 7th Avenue Establishment Ralph Lauren, Donna Karan or Calvin Klein. It was by Isabel Toledo, a Cuban American whom nobody knows but everyone should.

By wearing clothes by up-and-coming designers such as Narciso Rodriguez, Thakoon Panichgul, Maria Pinto, Maria Cornejo and Toledo, Obama is helping to promote a new generation of talent, and write the next chapter in American fashion.

Toledo, who sells at Barneys New York, has been designing under her own name for 20 years in New York, and was briefly the creative director for Anne Klein. (Bet they wish they'd hung onto her now!) She is married to fashion illustrator Ruben Toledo. “She’s never been about making clothes to make herself famous,” says Rosemary Brantley, founding chairwoman of the Fashion Department at L.A.’s Otis School of Art and Design, where Toledo has been teaching since the 1990s. “She’s about flattering the figure and she’s curvaceous herself. Everything she does is thoughtful. She would never bang out a dress with a normal side seam. One of her things is rethinking construction.”

With its retro “Mad Men” silhouette and trendy yellow hue, the dress and coat proved that Obama can strike a balance between being conservative and taking risks. She looks better wearing one color, rather than breaking up her tall frame as she did on election night with the black-and-red Rodriguez dress.

Some might think that the inauguration ensemble was a tad dressy with its beaded collar. But Obama likes to dress up, and she’s determined to play her part in promoting fashion as fantasy. She may also have raised a few eyebrows with the borrowed $17,000 Loree Rodkin diamond chandelier drop earrings she wore to the “We Are One” concert over the weekend. After all, Nancy Reagan was skewered for borrowing clothes from Bill Blass, James Galanos and others. But that was before the red carpet became the runway, and lending became a key form of advertising for designers.

Besides, Obama knows how to do the high-low thing, too. She wore J. Crew for the Kid’s Inaugural Ball on Monday night. And just hours after the inauguration, the e-mails were already flooding in from Dress Barn, Bluefly and other  retailers about how to get the look for less.

Because fashion is a business and Michelle Obama means business.

-- Booth Moore


Photos: First ladies' inauguration gowns

Should Michelle Obama borrow clothes and jewels like a celeb? Nancy Reagan couldn't.

Michelle Obama chose Jimmy Choo’s green 'Glacier' pump for Inauguration Day ensemble

Michelle Obama Chooses Jason Wu for Inaugural Balls

Aretha Franklin's inaugural hat trick

Photo: President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama escort former President George W. Bush and his wife, Laura, to a helicopter at the U.S. Capitol after Obama's inauguration. Credit: Tannen Maury / Bloomberg News

Michelle Obama chose Jimmy Choo’s green 'Glacier' pump for Inauguration Day ensemble

Shunning the traditional black, brown or beige pump, First Lady Michelle Obama wore Jimmy Choo’s “Glacier” kitten heel in a deep green to complement her cheerful yellow Isabel Toledo ensemble.

The pumps, which matched her olive green leather gloves, were purchased at Chicago boutique Ikram and are from the Jimmy Choo Autumn/Winter 2008 collection.

The unexpected green works well with yellow, which was a popular color on spring-collection runways.

-- Melissa Magsaysay

Michelle Obama chooses Isabel Toledo for swearing-in ceremony


Michelle Obama has chosen a sparkling yellow dress and coat by Cuban American designer Isabel Toledo for the swearing-in ceremony in Washington today. Obama looks polished but celebratory in a shade of yellow that echoes the sunny day. Toledo attended FIT and Parsons in New York and has been designing under her own name in New York for more than 20 years. She's a fashion-insider favorite who sells at Barneys New York and is married to the fashion illustrator Ruben Toledo. Most recently, she was creative director of Anne Klein, where she presented a couple of wonderful collections on the runway in New York before being dismissed.

--Booth Moore

Photo: US President-elect Barack Obama and Michelle Obama depart Blair House en route to St. John's Church in Washington, DC, earlier this morning. EPA/RON SACHS/POOL


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