In a day and age when “fashion forward” is often contradictorily defined as “fashion backward,” reverting back to the decades of style that were freakishly classical, including the rebirth of the ‘80s (it hasn’t been a full turn of the century yet), there is one woman who has been trailblazing the fashion industry forward with her own versatile style, First Lady Michelle Obama.
In a thoughtfully constructed book, Mrs. O: The Face of Fashion Democracy, Mary Tomer, considered the unofficial authority on Michele Obama’s fashion, having appeared on the Today Show and been featured in The New York Times and USA Today to discuss the first lady’s impeccable fashion choices, has put together a pictorial collage, often times using original photography to document the fashionista’s sense of style.
Fascinated, borderline obsessed with the woman who is not afraid to show a little leg or flirt with a slightly off-the-shoulder ensemble, the idea of the book first materialized as Mrs-O.org, a blog that has followed the first lady since the 2008 primaries into the White House, as well as captured her in other momentous occasions including her first meeting with the queen of England.
With a keen eye for fashion, it’s easy to see however, why Obama has only been among three first ladies considered fashion trendsetters in the course of U.S. presidential history – the other two being Frances Cleveland, wife of President Grover Cleveland (1893-1897), and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, wife of President John F. Kennedy (1961-1963) – and why everyone is captivated by her style.
Moving away from the boring, boxy and narrow dress suits that we have been accustomed to seeing for the last 48 years, the book showcases the first lady’s preference for more clean, crispier lines and her desire to play around with bold patterns, vibrant colors as well as vintage pieces that subtly show off her natural curves.
Mixing and matching not only high-end names, the book casually mentions she often wears affordable, low-price point pieces, like H&M and J. Crew, that are mainstream accessible. And supplying us the answer to the person credited for developing her keen fashion eye and her ability to pull off these ensembles is Ikram Goldman, the owner of Ikram Boutique, based in Chicago where the first lady frequently chooses from a vast selection of garments by designers who wouldn’t necessarily have found success as quickly if it hadn’t been for her sashaying in them.
Resourcefully, Tomer also includes profiles of some of Obama’s favorite designers of recent years, including Jason Wu who created the floor-length, one-shoulder, white chiffon dress adorned with organza flowers and crystals she wore at the Inaugural Ball; Maria Pinto’s open-back, teal dress she wore at the Democratic National Convention, and Isabel Toledo, creator of the gold and bronze dress with a banded empire waist she wore during the re-opening of the Ford Theatre, the site of Abraham Lincoln’s assassination.
Other added bonuses of the book include her interviews with authorities on fashion including Vogue’s Editor-at-Large Andrew Leon Talley and Booth Moore, chief fashion critic for the Los Angeles Times, the narrations on the moments surrounding Mrs. O’s ensemble of choice, as well as the mention of some of the accessories she has worn, like the metallic and black Moschino brooch, the Jimmy Choo jade pumps and the Sonia Rykiel waist belt.
But what truly gives credence to the first lady’s ability to pull off some of the most amazing outfits, as the book aptly points out, is her pleasant disposition, her ability to speak, her intellect, self-confidence and, perhaps most significant, her ability to relate to the people. And understanding that her lifelong accomplishments have helped shape the person that she is today, Tomer highlights some of the more highly regarded achievements including Obama’s graduating cum laude from Princeton, her desire to represent people who couldn’t afford lawyers after receiving her J.D. from Harvard Law School and eventually being named vice president for Community External Affairs for University of Chicago Hospitals.
Overall, the 235-page book provides a solid glimpse into the life of one of the most profound fashion icons in every possible setting. However, the only drawback is that most of the pictorials Tomer included in her book are of Mrs. Obama in outfits that the rest of the world has already seen her wear.