Designers: First lady's ball gown should be bold

NEWYORK–Michelle Obama’s todo list before Jan. 20 surely is long, and somewhere on it must be choosing her inaugural wardrobe. Whatever Michelle Obama wears first to the ceremony and then the ball celebrating her husband Barack as the 44th president

NEW YORK–Michelle Obama’s todo list before Jan. 20 surely is long, and somewhere on it must be choosing her inaugural wardrobe.

Whatever Michelle Obama wears first to the ceremony and then the ball celebrating her husband Barack as the 44th president, she and her outfits will instantly become two of the longest-lasting images of modern history.

And there’ll be global reviews from real style insiders as well as armchair critics mere seconds after the public gets its first glimpse of the new first lady, who is already considered a fashion icon. To this day, people still talk about Jackie Kennedy and her stunning white gown with a chiffon-covered beaded bodice and her regal full-length cape.

This isn’t a fashion decision to take lightly, says Bridget Foley, executive editor of W magazine and Women’s Wear Daily, recommending Obama try on many looks before making her final choice.

"The dress will live in perpetuity and it will go into the Smithsonian," Foley says. "I’d like to see Michelle Obama take the elegant route – and push it," she adds. "There are so many wonderful clothes out there but so often people in the public arena think they have to play it safe. I think she should really look around and try something long and curvy – with color. That would work."

A strong color, symbolic of a strong, confident woman, was a consistent answer as from fashion designers asked about their vision for Obama and special gown.

Other suggestions:

-Badgley Mischka: There should be a little beading or embroidery on her gown to fully bring the dress to life, says Mark Badgley, but it shouldn’t be overdone – that would detract from Obama’s modernity.

"She can bring a breath of fresh air to Washington, and she can bring a youthfulness to first-lady attire," partner James Mischka says. They envision her in something like a turquoise gazar gown from their upcoming spring collection. It’s a strapless silhouette, with guipere lace down the front and a fishtail hem.

"An inaugural gown has to be important and breathtaking," Badgley says. Lilac and berry shades, as well as tangerine and ocean blues would all be lovely options, they say, but they’d advise her to steer clear of black. "She should look a little more ‘up,’" Badgley says.

As for the Obamas’ daughters Malia and Sasha, the designers say their outfits should reflect their ages – 10 and 7, respectively, and not be too glamorous. Ruffles would be good and so would a color that coordinated with their mothers’ choice, Mischka says.

-Tracy Reese: Reese says she met Obama at a fundraiser and was impressed with the way she carried herself – and her clothes. "She’d look awesome in something shapely and fitted," Reese says. "I’d serve up something with color, a nicely fitted bodice and some ease through the skirt so she could be comfortable but be feminine."

Obama successfully achieves the balance of wearability and style on a regular basis, Reese says. "She likes fashion but her day is long, so her time for clothes is short."

-J.Crew: No one was as surprised as Jenna Lyons, creative director, when Obama appeared on "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno" in an outfit that Obama declared was purchased online from J.Crew. Other than pride, Lyons says that experience gave her the feeling that Obama would bring to the White House the sensibility of a modern working mother.

As for a gown, Lyons would like to think that J.Crew could be a contender.  AP

Copyright 2008 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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