Fashion & Style

April 3, 2009, 7:44 pm

Michelle Wears Alaia to the NATO Dinner

Michelle Obama in Alaiavalda Kalnina/EPA Michelle Obama wears a Azzedine Alaia knit dress to a dinner in Baden-Baden.

Breaking the tradition of American first ladies typically, though not exclusively, wearing American fashion, Michelle Obama wore a sleeveless knit dress by the Paris legend Azzedine Alaia to a dinner in Baden-Baden. Reached tonight by phone in his studio, Alaia said the dress, which has a ruffled skirt, was sold to Ikram, the Chicago store that has been supplying Mrs. Obama with most of her clothes and accessories. Alaia said he saw pictures of Mrs. Obama in the dress on the Internet.

See more of Michelle Obama’s looks from Europe in a slide show.

From 1 to 25 of 73 Comments

  1. 1. April 3, 2009 8:03 pm Link

    Alas, while I love Alaia and I admire Mrs. O’s daring, the dress simply doesn’t work on her or the occassion. It’s a bit frou frou when compared to the other ladies there. She looks way overdressed.

    You can’t help but compare her to the woman she’s close to in both height and age. That’s unfortunate.

    — brooksie
  2. 2. April 3, 2009 8:28 pm Link

    In my humble opinion I like it better than what Carla is wearing.

    — Joane
  3. 3. April 3, 2009 8:31 pm Link

    Mrs. O taste is virtually flawless. Kudos to her for having her own sense of style, no matter what the critics say.

    — coe
  4. 4. April 3, 2009 8:37 pm Link


    Michelle Obama is “frou when compared to the other ladies there”? Which ladies? You mean German Prime Minister Merkel on the far left who looks like she may have worn black pajamas to the dinner? The woman on the far right who I don’t immediately recognize? Are you REALLY comparing her outfit with Michelle Obama’s?

    I assume there’s really one other woman you’re referring to and that is Carla Bruni. Ms. Bruni undoubtedly looks fine but her dress doesn’t appear any less fussy or “frou” than Michelle Obama’s choice; if anything, with the detail around the neck, Bruni’s dress is MORE showy than the simple lines of Obama’s dress.

    Not every one of Michelle Obama’s outfits is a hit - “kooky” is pretty strong stuff - but calling her “overdressed” in comparison to the other women in the picture above is quite simply absurd.

    — Peter
  5. 5. April 3, 2009 8:46 pm Link

    I have to disagree with the previous post. This is the FIRST dress that Mrs. Obama has worn on this trip that is flattering to her figure, and has the appropriate level of class. Perhaps it is too dressy for the occasion, but I am celebrating that for once she has a dress that works extremely well on her. Compare what she wore to the Gordon Brown dinner — the white top looked like it was made of cheap material, it pulled in the front and the back, and it made her look flat chested on top and wide wide wide below. This dress, in contrast is absolutely elegant. It makes her look like she has an attractive bust line and an nice body (which, as it turns out, she does have). There is nothing worse than a woman who works to have a good body, and then ruins that look by choosing the wrong clothes. That green thing at the school yesterday was HIDEOUS. .

    I do think it is over the top that we pay so much attention to her fashion, but I find it worse that everyone has to pretend that she has WONDERFUL taste because we love her so much. It’s like if we don’t like a woman, we make fun of the way she dresses and if we really like her, we feel the need to comment on how great she looks. Mrs. Obama is fantastic and looks great a lot of the time, but NOT all the time. I would prefer if people reported on her the way the did Laura Bush (”the first lady wore X, Y Z). Period. Like lots of professional women, Mrs. Obama likes attractive clothes. That doesn’t make her a “fashionista” or some kind of debutante.

    BUT, if we are going to place her in that light, let’s be honest about her successes and her failures.

    — Marian
  6. 6. April 3, 2009 8:57 pm Link


    You offer your opinion as though anyone else but you should care what you think. Michelle Obama looks fantastic in the dress. Both women look wonderful; why the need to compare?

    — Tanya
  7. 7. April 3, 2009 9:27 pm Link

    I think Marian hit it right on the head. This dress looked fabulous on Michelle and so what if it seemed like she was “over dressed”? Perhaps the other women, with the exception of Carla, were underdressed.

    Michelle has had her share of hits and misses and I’ll say that the “kooky” sweater she had on with the Jason Wu dress with the green kitten heeled shoes was a bust, right up there with the Narcisso R. dress she wore on Election Night. However it should be noted that she take chances and I think this is what people are excited about.

    I am sure we will all get bored with what she is wearing soon enough, although J Crew sold out of the $158 pencil skirt she wore.


    — len
  8. 8. April 3, 2009 9:42 pm Link

    Both first ladies look like they coud take on the world. Good job Mrs.Obama, you are not wearing an American designer! There are great designers all around the globe to choose from.

    — Emma Hager
  9. 9. April 3, 2009 9:46 pm Link

    LOVE Michelle’s and Carla’s dresses!

    — Gladys
  10. 10. April 3, 2009 9:52 pm Link

    Kudos to Michelle for wearing this very elegant black dress. Suits her body extremely well.

    — susanne
  11. 11. April 3, 2009 9:52 pm Link

    I think she looks great. And what a lady to wear off the rack J.Crew one day and a big name designer the next!

    I’m just thrileld to have a president and first lady who are intelligent, educated, and likeable!

    — michelle
  12. 12. April 3, 2009 10:22 pm Link

    Michelle looks pretty in the Alaia, but she should have asked Carla Bruni to style her for the London visit.

    As a total contrast, Angela Merkel has worn the same outfit on every occasion; apparently without ironing it. It’s also interesting that the men did not change from their dayware for this dinner.

    — ck_dexter_haven
  13. 13. April 3, 2009 10:25 pm Link

    Oh, and J.Crew is sold out on the $298 sparkly ivory cardigan as well.

    — ck_dex
  14. 14. April 3, 2009 10:41 pm Link

    Brooksie, I don´t think Michelle was overdressed but I agree with you that the dress didn´t fit her right.
    Tho I admire Ikram´s expertise, the choice was poorly made and I love the fact that Alaïa had nothing to do with it.
    They (Michelle and Ikram) need to work the First Lady´s silhouette with more wisdom and try, at any cost, to avoid waisted stuff.
    Knits must be restricted to cardigans, in her case.

    As for Frau Merkel, she should have learned better with Hillary Clinton and then quit those absurdly ugly pantsuits.
    It´s an enigma to me why overweight ladies insist on assuming that they are not allowed to wear dresses.

    Carla is flawless, that´s a fact tho I miss seeing her wearing some color even being aware that Lacroix has never been a favorite at the Elysée.
    Bernadette already wore him but I´m not sure.

    — Augustuzs Neto
  15. 15. April 3, 2009 11:51 pm Link

    The ones who’s criticize the First Lady’s style……. the only taste you have is in your mouth!

    — Dominque
  16. 16. April 3, 2009 11:55 pm Link

    redefine the definition of class……you go mrs. o

    — thomas heflin
  17. 17. April 4, 2009 12:39 am Link

    CS is elegant;MO needs Palin’s stylist. In London,she looked tacky with false eyelashes & too much makeup on her upper eyelids. MSM has declared she is bea
    utiful. She is not- there are many beautiful black women - on a scale of 1-10, she is 1or less.

    She also needs to learn protocol - just as it is followed in USA re the Pres.

    — Rita Dighakar
  18. 18. April 4, 2009 12:47 am Link

    Tanya….that’s what you DO on a website, right? Obviously you cared about what I thought enough to tell me that you didn’t . What makes you think your opinon is more valuable than mine?

    Peter…who ELSE could I be referring to in reference to Mrs. O….Angela Merkel? No it’s not absurd to say she’s overdressed when you consider the event and how the other women are dressed.

    People are taking this stuff way too seriously and personally. Nobody is required to like everything she wears, so deal w/ that. This worshipful stuff is getting boring.

    — brooksie
  19. 19. April 4, 2009 12:51 am Link

    stunning and fab. mrs. o as done us americans proud…..hope they get home soon.

    — kshaw
  20. 20. April 4, 2009 3:40 am Link

    Every outfit of Michelle Obama has been spot on, except for the J. Crew one with the mint green skirt … the top hugged her body too much and seemed a little out of whack with the skirt … she should have paired the skirt with a tailored jacket either in white, matching mint green, or, even better, a light shade of yellow, maybe a lemon color, that would have been refreshing and crisp, and pulled it off, but that’s neither here nor there. Her best outfit was when she stepped off the plane in London, with the Jason Wu dress and Azzedine Alaia belt.

    Michelle Obama communicates comfort and accessibility, vibrancy, youth, warmth, with her outfits, they’re like a second skin. How to communicate something politically without seeming to communicate something? She’s doing a fine job.

    As for Jason Wu, If Michelle Obama continues to wear his creations at this rate, I say, save the money and the time and the effort and quite doing pointless fashion shows. Why bother? When you have Michelle Obama communicating, translating your clothes better than any medium? This is how you want your clothes to be seen, period. Fashion shows seem irrelevant and mundane in comparison. Just keeping making great dresses for her, and you’ll do more than alright.

    I agree with Ms. Horyn that Carla Sarkozy when she was first in London, (was it a year ago?), all prim and proper in Dior, it didn’t feel authentic. She was playing a role, dressing up, and it felt contrived. You weren’t getting the genuine article, but the feeling of someone trying to be something that she thinks you think she should be, and it’s sort of strange. It sort of begged for acceptance in a way. But I suppose she was learning. Even now though, the outfits she sports, you still don’t get a sense of her, but rather, that she’s simply helping out her pal John Galliano. It would be more interesting if she had some more flair, more personality. And it would communicate the clothes she wears better if she had more of Michelle Obama’s sensibility.

    What’s surprising is that American fashion has come off as being refreshing and relevant, contemporary, whereas European fashion seems really Old World, old school, dowdy, a complete so what. American design is underrated, perhaps. Maybe it reveals something about how fashion shows can play too much of a role in how we see clothes, that the medium of a fashion show is manipulative and doesn’t at all indicate as to the real value of the clothes themselves. Alright, I know that seems common sense, and it should be obvious, but is it? Jason Wu puts out an alright fashion show, but can put clothes on a first lady, and communicate like this? Could it be that the Paris way of viewing fashion, and fashion show presentations, and all the nonsense that surrounds them hypes the illusion of French dominance of fashion, when in fact, it may be the Americans producing the most relevant fashion, the best in clothing design actually applicable to women’s lives? Just thought I’d throw that out. I find it stimulating.

    — RC
  21. 21. April 4, 2009 4:02 am Link

    Michelle is beautiful ! She is somehow getting more beautiful every month.

    Can you compare Michelle to Carla ? Of course, they are BOTH beautiful and intelligent women and confident. They represent the finest examples of what women can be in the world today.

    Notice also that Obama moves like a panther- sleek like Michael Jordan rising off the hardwood court for a lay up.

    — Bondy
  22. 22. April 4, 2009 6:43 am Link

    Michelle looked comfortable, relaxed and “at home” in the photo and, therefore, was the fashion star of the evening. “Frou frou” is not how I would describe that dress; in fact, the outfit as a whole leads the onlooker right up to her radiant face.

    I think it’s not just what one wears that makes a person well-dressed, but how one wears their clothes. Michelle came to the White House with a nailed-down sense of her own style: she knows her own body and always seems to enjoy what she wears.

    — M. Porter
  23. 23. April 4, 2009 7:59 am Link

    This whole affair is too good to be true or too true to be good. Is this a Vanity Fair party…or NATO? Can we please gain some distance? A minimal one at least.The gushing is all nice, and warm, and heartfelt, and oblivious too, but please, this game, and the reactions - no, she’s not just idealized, she’s everyone’s blank screen - funny, when I talked about the frame, how everyone projects almost the same thing - how come? At the end of the day, yes, Carla O and Michelle O look nice (and most of their clothes would be uninteresting on someone else, especially in a fashion show as a designer statement - come on, the interest in Michelle’s clothes in an almost paparazzi/gossip interest in her, not fashion design in the strictest sense…at all), but their husbands and their team - that’s what I’m interested in - and fortunately, or unfortunately, their image is a part of that - I see it as a part of that. Okay, in THAT light. Carla stands next to Sarko - a man I loathe, for good reasons - I’ll keep him in mind when I see her in all her loveliness. She’s working for him too.

    Then again, chacun à son goût. Whatever strikes you as important and meaningful, I guess.

    — Marko
  24. 24. April 4, 2009 8:19 am Link

    Mrs Obama looked absolutely lovely!

    — Audreyce
  25. 25. April 4, 2009 8:49 am Link

    Going through some of the articles in newspapers…okay, this is officially ridiculous and laughable: as if those first ladies invented fashion - how come most fashion reporting becomes even more blind and turns into Daily Mail style so quickly? I wonder, again, if its nature is bad. And as if we hadn’t had that experience in the past before. And unfortunately this is the predominat way the majority gets in touch with fashion - okay, as I’ve said here before, the type of entrance doesn’t bother me at all, I accept it, any form of it, but what kind of consequence this had in the past - we all know, perpetuating what has been here for decades. I care about all aspects that come with fashion and its design part, but this is becoming an illness of gushing. Over-investing.

    Oh, and RC, interesting points, but I’d have to amicably disagree about Europe in terms of relevant fashion, but I agree about America in terms of openness - every fashion city brings its own view and legacy, London, Tokyo, NY, etc., but no fashion designer of today is able to bypass France, past and present. It’s where modern fashion design was born and built, and this will hardly go away - I have yet to meet a young designer that thinks of Paris in a negative way (except for how difficult it is to enter its world), and it’s not mere idealization. If fashion shows are obviously manipulative, well, so is this, as natural and unintended as it appears. It’s politics. it’s stylists. But I prefer fashion shows - I’m there predominantly for someone’s work, team work, innovation, development, etc.Then again, it depends what we’re interested in - a designer’s work, or which powerful person wears what. Jason Wu is a decent designer, but with all do respect: he is no Ghesquiere, Prada, Simons, Jacobs, etc. I’m glad he got the exposure, everyone deserves a place under the sun, it’s good for him and his business, his survival. Design wise, we’ll see.

    I like the Alaia, by the way. Though I’m questioning why it’s hard not to. Chomsky on Obama/Geithner plans? Worrying.

    — Marko

Add your comments...


Required, will not be published

About On the Runway

On the Runway, The Times's blog on all things fashion, takes you to the front row of fashion shows, behind the scenes at ateliers and houses around the world and inside the minds of designers. Cathy Horyn, the Times fashion critic, is your guide.


Recent Posts

April 03

Michelle Wears Alaia to the NATO Dinner

valda Kalnina/EPA Michelle Obama wears a Azzedine Alaia knit dress to a dinner in Baden-Baden.
Breaking the tradition of American first ladies typically, though not exclusively, wearing American fashion, Michelle Obama wore a sleeveless knit dress by the Paris legend Azzedine Alaia to a dinner in Baden-Baden. Reached tonight by phone in his studio, Alaia [...]

April 03

After They Tossed Their Coats…

Getty Images Michelle Obama and Carla Bruni-Sarkozy before a lunch at Rohan Palace.
Here’s another view of Michelle Obama’s Thakoon dress and the gray wool Dior worn by Carla Bruni-Sarkozy under her lambskin coat. For a NATO reception tonight in Baden-Baden, Mrs. Bruni-Sarkozy wore a black Dior dress with a scallop-ribbon neckline, which like the gray [...]

April 03

Michelle Goes to France; Carla Wears Dior

Reuters Michelle Obama, left, and Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, right, listen to national anthems, during a welcoming ceremony in Strasbourg, France.
If the fashion and retail industries weren’t in such a funk, and maybe if the general media knew more about fashion so that it didn’t seem to be panting before every cardigan, there might be less fuss [...]

April 02

Michelle Wears Kooky Cardigan to Covent Garden

Joel Ryan/Associated Press Michelle Obama waves to pupils during a visit to Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Language School in London.
Michelle Obama’s travel wardrobe and new hairdo continue to transfix observers, down to the smallest wrinkle and royal hug. Yesterday’s visit to Buckingham Palace was a case of old world meets new, with Queen Elizabeth II sporting [...]

April 01

Topshop in New York

Bryan Bedder/Getty Images The designer Georgina Chapman attends the celebration of the launch of Topshop in New York.
E.B White once said that driving to Maine teaches you to spell moccasin. I feel sort of the same about the arrival of spring and forsythia. It’s been a hard spring, though, for many people. Eventually you [...]


  • Subscribe to the RSS Feed
  • Subscribe to the Atom Feed