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Michelle's Sense of Style

First lady Michelle Obama wore a sparkling yellow sheath dress with matching coat by Cuban-born American designer Isabel Toledo for the inauguration of her husband, a choice many applauded as a cheerful message of hope and a vote for the American fashion industry.

In some light, the embellished ensemble took on a pale greenish cast, coordinating nicely with green gloves from J. Crew and Jimmy Choo green patent pumps.

Mrs. Obama chose a white chiffon one-shoulder gown for the series of inagurual balls she and Mr. Obama dropped in on.

At the Neighborhood Ball at Washington's Convention Center, President Obama asked, "First of all, how good-looking is my wife?"

Her full-skirted dress had a strap across her right shoulder, a ruched bodice, fluffy appliques and sparkly beading. It was a Jason Wu gown which, per tradition, will be donated to the Smithsonian.

The president and first lady made appearances at 10 official balls, kicking up their heels after the day of pomp and ceremony in the nation's capital.

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Photos: Michelle's Inaugural Outfits
Pesident Obama wore a red tie and white shirt with his suit, topped with an overcoat adorned with an American flag pin.

Their daughters were style icons in their own right, with 10-year-old Malia in a double-breasted periwinkle-blue coat with a blue-ribbon bow at the waist, and Sasha, 7, in a pink coat with orange scarf and satin belt, a coral-colored dress peeking out at the hem.

The coats were made by J.Crew's children's line called Crew Cuts. They were custom made for Sasha and Malia, but if someone is looking to buy similar coats for their girls, they will run about $198- $248.

The fashion industry has looked anxiously to the election of Mr. Obama for months, embracing his wife as an emblem and ambassador of modern style, who wears clothes from young designers as well as mainstream American retailers.

How Did Michelle Pull it Off?

Washington Post Fashion Editor Robin Givhan told Maggie Rodriguez. She also gave her thoughts on Michelle's inaugural outfits, and discussed Michelle beginning to have some misgivings about being seen as a fashion icon. The chat with Givhan followed an interview Rodriguez did with Isabel Toldeo, who designed one of Michelle's two Tuesday outfits and called it a "dream come true" that Michelle picked her creation:

Toledo, who had a short stint at Anne Klein but is considered relatively avante garde, is exactly the kind of designer Obama gravitates toward.

"Tere is nothing that comes close to this moment," Toledo said, speaking in New York. "It's not just my moment and hers, but it's the world's. ... It's not only what she's wearing. It's what the moment represents."

Toledo designed the outfit with hopes Obama would choose it for the ceremony, though Toledo didn't know for certain until Tuesday morning.

Toledo said the coat is made of wool lace in a silk net, with a silk radzimir underneath and a layer of pashmina for warmth. The dress has a jewel-like embellishment around the neckline.

She chose the "lemongrass" color for the optimism it represents.

"I didn't want a traditional blue or red," she said. "That color has sunshine in it. I fell in love with it. So did she."

That unusual shade of yellow "really popped" on Michelle Obama's complexion, said fashion designer Kai Milla, wife of Stevie Wonder and an invited guest to the swearing-in ceremony.

"What I recognized more than anything from our new first lady and Hillary (Clinton) and everyone else is that everyone was fresh," she said.

The overall look was largely a hit.

"She's off to an auspicious start," said Hamish Bowles, Vogue magazine's European editor at large who curated the Metropolitan Museum Costume Insitute exhibit on Jackie Kennedy in 2001.

"Mrs. Obama's choice (for the ceremonny) was appropriate, dignified and elegant, but it also had a considerable element of fashion panache," he added. "She's finding great American talent."

She also connects with American women.

"What's so powerful about Michelle Obama is we all see ourselves in her. She's a modern woman who is fashionable and even flamboyant in her style and she is still taken seriously," said red-carpet and magazine stylist Mary Alice Stephenson. "She's wearing that dress today for all of us."

The Obamas' look Tuesday contrasted with that of the outgoing Bushes, with Laura Bush in a dove-gray skirt suit and matching coat.

On the podium with the Obamas, Vice President Joe Biden wore a navy Hickey Freeman suit he bought at the Nordstrom's in King of Prussia, Pa., paired with a blue tie, while his wife, Dr. Jill Biden, had on a bright red coat over a houndstooth dress by Milly and high black leather boots.

Also catching style-watchers' eyes: Aretha Franklin singing to the immense crowd gathered at the Capitol in an over-the-top hat with an oversized bow and beading.

"Aretha is a larger than life personality. Why shouldn't she wear a larger than life hat?" remarked Nicole Phelps, executive editor of

Yet, she added, the gray color of Franklin's hat was an attempt to yield the spotlight. "The fact that it was gray to match her outfit can be seen as an acknowledgment that it's the Obamas' day, not Aretha's, i.e., she's a star but she wasn't THE star today."