Most 30-year-old fashion designers would be popping open a bottle of champagne if they just found out the first lady chose their dress to wear at the inaugural ball. But this is nothing new for Jason Wu. The New York-based designer’s ruby chiffon and velvet shimmering gown with a keyhole neckline was made for someone with Michelle Obama arms. No wonder she’s his biggest fan. Four years ago, the first lady chose a cream-colored custom gown by Wu for her first inaugural slow dance.
Despite Wu’s now-veteran status as an inaugural designer, he was still pretty thrilled to learn his dress was chosen.
“I can’t believe it. It’s crazy,” Wu told the Associated Press by phone from his Manhattan studio Monday night. “To have done it once was already the experience of my life. To have a second time is tremendous.”
CNN’s Alina Cho nearly collapsed at the confirmation from Wu’s reps (live via cell phone during one of the more awkward moments in fashion reporting. “I am shocked,” said the shaken style correspondent. “This is remarkable that four years later she would choose Jason Wu again.”
Not so remarkable when you consider Michelle’s style strategy. She’s a loyalist, known as much for her fashion risk-taking as for her dedication to a select group of designers. When Michelle chose Wu the first time around, she rocked the foundation of Washington fashion politics, opting for a little-known, avant-garde designer over a veteran inaugural couturier like Oscar De La Renta. Four years later, we know our Michelle. She makes her own rules and they’re usually right on the money.
“I think we’ll hear a lot of people saying they wish she gave the exposure to someone who was less established, but her choice just shows she’s in control,” Fashionista’s Leah Chernikoff tells Yahoo! Shine. “She wears what she likes.”
Other people like it too. “Would it be ok if Michelle Obama’s dress didn’t go to National Archives, and went to my closet instead?” Lauren Maloney, a local news anchor tweeted. More ebullient Twitter complimenters threw out terms like: “Elegant” “Stunning” “Absolutely fabulous.”
Elle’s Joe Zee was a little more subdued in his praise. “I think the color was the biggest thing for me,” Zee told CNN. “It’s a sign of optimism.”
It’s certainly that for Wu, whose spent the last four years riding an escalator to success in the aftermath of 2009’s inaugural gown win. He’s since launched a Target line and collected an endless roster of celebrity fans. What more could a young designer (who only a few hours ago was tweeting about cats) ask for? Bigger business, which according to Glamour’s style editor, is likely what he’ll get.
It wasn’t just a big day for Wu. The first lady paired her red gown with a handmade diamond ring by Kimberly McDonald, and heels by Jimmy Choo, which means both designers will go down in presidential history. Earlier in the day, Michelle called on two other creative style forces for her first inaugural look. She wore a navy Thom Browne coat and dress cinched with an embellished J. Crew belt. Her wardrobe decision for the icy outdoor daytime ceremony was largely praised by fashion critics on Twitter. But the best comment on the first lady’s style choices came from an unexpected pundit, The Office’s BJ Novak.
He tweeted: “Tough day for Michelle Obama’s ex-boyfriends.” Enough said.