Fashion Convention: Michelle Obama and Ann Romney Dress for (White House) Success

A fashion hit that lit up the Internet
A fashion hit that lit up the Internet

Now that our current and our hopeful first ladies have taken the stage at their respective conventions, and now that each has made the case for her husband to be elected president in November, it's time to turn to what's really important -- what did they wear?

Last week Ann Romney wowed the Republican National Convention with a heartfelt speech that was genuinely delivered. She finally had a chance to share the man she knows with America, and her speech was effective; I'm blue through-and-through, but found her quite likable, if not always totally believable. (Ironing board as a dining room table? Hmmm.) What was believable was her choice of dress: a true, Republican red -- some call it Nancy Reagan Red -- silk taffeta Oscar de la Renta, in what could be called a "shirtdress for evening." (No wrap or buttons, high collar, evening fabric, glamorous gold accessories.) Ann Romney's choice of de la Renta -- finished with bright red tips and lips -- was classic and traditional, what one would expect from a woman of her age, faith, and socioeconomic standing. High-end Housewife Chic, let's call it.

Last night Michelle Obama hit the stage to make the case for her husband, President Barack Obama. Like Ann Romney, Michelle Obama stayed true to her sartorial point of view and the Internet went wild.

Before Obama took the stage to deliver her speech, photos of her from earlier in the day surfaced in which she was wearing a DVF Resort 2013 wrap dress -- with a beautiful cowl neck detail -- while prepping for her speech that night. The Internet was abuzz, as we wondered who the first lady would wear during her speech. Naturally it would be an American designer, so Wu was out, but perhaps Rodarte or Narciso Rodriguez?

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Michelle opted for a sleeveless, custom-made Tracy Reese dress in pink-and-gold (raw silk brocade?), prompting many a Tweet about the first lady's "right to bare arms." Mrs. Obama paired the dress with simple pink J.Crew pumps; the only jewelry she wore were earrings and her wedding set. After the Tracy Reese splash died down, one more big question remained: What brand and color nail polish are you wearing, Mrs. O? Because the Internet has fallen in love with the blue-ish, gray-ish, silver-y vernis that matched the bottom hem of your Reese, and we just have to have it. Mrs. O's penchant for mid-priced frocks is no small part of her wild popularity. The choice of Reese was smart, appealing to a younger demographic seeking fashion in economically difficult times, and Michelle didn't have to sacrifice a bit of elegance in the process. Her look is far edgier, to be sure, especially when the blue nails are taken into consideration, but Obama has been pushing the envelope of first lady fashion since her husband first hit the campaign trail more than four years ago.

Both Ann Romney and Michelle Obama stayed true to themselves in both their speeches, and their clothing choices. Ann Romney is a devout Mormon woman in her 60s, and of "good breeding" -- de la Renta was the natural choice, having clothed Laura Bush, Hillary Clinton and Nancy Reagan, all of whom are closer to Romney than to Obama in the style department. Perhaps if she had selected a different foreign designer, one without the White House history de la Renta has, it would have been an issue, but Romney's choice of de la Renta did not spark any kind of "Why not an American designer?" controversy that we could find. Romney hit just the right note with her choice of dress: an updated version of a '50s housewife, straddling the line of modernity and nostalgia. (A very ladylike straddle, thankyouverymuch.) Few other dresses could have achieved that better than the red de la Renta not-quite-a-shirtdress. In turn, Obama played to her strengths -- youth, vitality and evoking the image of the modern working mother -- in her choice of Tracy Reese.

Well played, ladies.


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