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Michelle Obama inspires wardrobe guessing game

January 19, 2009 |  9:01 am

Barack Obama's words are already being parsed for clues to his administration's tone. Will his inaugural address be a lyrical call for unity, like Abe Lincoln's second? Or will it be like Franklin Roosevelt's first, an attempt to calm public fear?

But speculation is even more intense over the issue of Michelle Obama's clothes. Bloggers have made an international parlor game out of guessing what will she, the first African American woman to serve as the nation's first lady, will wear to the inauguration. For this woman who loves to alternate high-end with low-budget, which will she choose for the momentous occasion?

As for her gown for the 10 inaugural balls the Obamas plan to attend Tuesday night, curiosity is intense, and international.

The Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising in California hosted a gala Inaugural Fashion Show on Sunday (emcee was Nick Verreos, who appeared on "Project Runway" in 2005) that imagined Michelle O. in a sleek, body-fitting red gown. The Washington Post has pictured her in a body-skimming green gown.

And the Times of London recently speculated that Mrs. O., as the blogosphere refers to the woman said to be as fashionable as Jackie O., might even defy experts, predicting a politically safe all-American look. Maybe, said the Times, she'll opt for "something French to show that she's backing her husband's new, Euro-friendly promises."

Some may scoff at the intense interest in fashion as evidence of a vapid press corps run amok. But interest is intense -- when Women's Wear Daily recently ran 35 sketches of visions from designers, it got 6 million hits.

The Ticket prefers to think of all the talk of clothes as a sign that in a bad economy, style can lift morale. As the New York Times speculated, maybe Mrs. O. will become a one-woman bailout for a floundering U.S. fashion industry.

-- Johanna Neuman

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