There comes a time in any quest to copy Michelle Obama’s style, when you have to question your life choices as you stand in line at Target holding a salmon-colored wool—well, mostly wool — coat, for the express purpose of offering it as a viable replacement for Obama’s stunning navy, silk jacquard coat worn for her husband’s swearing-in ceremony.
But then you remind yourself Obama’s coat was designed specifically for her by American designer Thom Browne whose cardigans alone can cost close to $1,000.
Along with the coat, Obama wore a J. Crew jeweled belt, purple leather gloves, and black Reed Krakoff boots.
The outfit caused significant buzz among national publications, with the Los Angeles Times calling her a “sartorial knockout” and Vogue’s André Leon Talley writing her praises.
Though it’s been reported that Browne will begin selling coats similar to Obama’s, the exact look is exclusively hers; and because she wore it first, it will probably be hard to top.
And that’s where I come in, holding a salmon-colored coat in one of Manhattan’s big box stores.
My objective was to recreate Obama’s look with Manhattan resources, and after scouring several clothing stores in the area and coming up empty-handed on collarless, navy coats that cinch in at the waist and fan out to create a full skirt, I decided to adjust my standards.
The salmon color just happens to be a similar shade to what Obama has previously worn in a blazer, so I took that as a tacit endorsement, and the lack of a collar echoes the design of her Thom Browne coat. It’s also a perfect coat to be belted, so as a cheaper option to Obama’s—and nevermind that Manhattan doesn’t have a J. Crew — I chose a woven, gold, sparkly belt as a stand-in for her jeweled one.
One of the best details about her look, though, was the unusual pop of color from her gloves. To mimic that, I chose warm-colored, berry gloves from Dillard’s to pair with the coat.
But beyond Obama’s inauguration look, her fashion choices have been a talking point since President Obama began his first term, and because her style is classically preppy, it can be easily recreated on a cheaper, local scale.
Two local shopkeepers, Lindsay Hufnagel, owner of The Boutique in Southwind Place, and Madeline Heck, general manager of Kieu’s in downtown Manhattan, helped me find casual to semi-formal dresses that are influenced by Obama’s style — though, of course, your options are not limited to those two stores.
At Kieu’s, we pulled a vibrant green dress with a simple silhouette that Heck complemented with a purple statement necklace and brown belt. “(Obama) is not afraid to wear color,” Heck said, “and she knows how to play up her body style.”
We also pulled a cheerful, striped dress that Heck matched with a chunky necklace and two-toned clutch.
“I’d say Obama’s style is classy with a modern twist,” Heck said.
Naturally we chose sleeveless dresses, because, well, have you seen Obama’s toned arms? But Obama is an apparent fan of cardigans, which easily can be matched with both dresses. Add one, and suddenly you’re a lady who lunches.
At The Boutique, which shares space with Borck Brothers, we chose a simple, purple dress with three-quarter length sleeves, a silhouette commonly seen on Obama.
While her dress choices are typically simple, they also usually have one or two statement details about them. With the purple dress, from Joseph Ribkoff, it was the tiered details that caught our eye.
We also chose a lovely, beige sleeveless dress that Hufnagel said was featured recently in their runway show and fell beautifully on the model’s figure.
Because of the all-over detail of the dress, Hufnagel suggested pairing it simply with drop earrings and foregoing a necklace.
Pair with kid gloves and you’ll be ready to entertain important dignitaries — or at least be ready to make an entrance at any one of Manhattan’s fine dining establishments.