Don’t expect Michelle Obama to wear anything too fussy at the state dinner being held in honor of French president François Hollande on Tuesday.
“The first lady has a certain nonchalance, lets say, in the way she dresses,” said Nancy Pearlstein, owner of Relish, the clothing store in Georgetown. “She’s not as lacquered and more modern than your typical French woman.”
Kate Betts, author of “Everyday Icon: Michelle Obama and the Power of Style,” agreed that stuffy and traditional aren’t in the first lady’s sartorial vocabulary. She rarely leans toward the ornate and elaborate — a decidedly French aesthetic.
“My instinct is that she’ll probably wear an American designer simply because they have the quintessential streamlined and athletic style,” said Betts, a former editor of Harper’s Bazaar.
Betts guessed that a Michael Kors or Narciso Rodriguez might make its way down the grand staircase on Tuesday. The first lady has worn multiple looks by both designers, most notably the black and red Rodriguez cocktail dress that introduced her to the world on election night 2008 and the black one-shoulder Kors gown she wore to the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation dinner in 2012. Vogue highlighted both looks as among Mrs. Obama’s best.
But even with her penchant for the American look, often at a state dinner the first lady will pay homage by wearing a gown created by a designer with ties to the country being feted. In 2011, at the Korean state dinner, Mrs. Obama wore Korean-American designer Doo-Ri Chung. At the Obama’s first state dinner for the Indian prime minister in 2009 the first lady wore Indian-born American designer Naeem Khan.
If Mrs. Obama decides to go with a French designer on American soil one possible choice would be Sophie Theallet, a French-American designer based in New York. Although Theallet is a relative unknown to the larger public, Mrs. Obama has been photographed multiple times in her dressy yet casual frocks.
“The great thing about Sophie is that Michelle likes to go with unknown designers — like a Jason Wu — not huge names and Sophie has that young designer feel,” said Claire Sulmers, editor-in-chief of the website Fashion Bomb Daily.
Betts added that a Theallet dress at the state dinner would be “a big thing for the fashion industry,” but just who the first lady will be wearing at the state dinner is still anyone’s guess.
“She’s really always surprises us,” said Betts.
More state dinner coverage from menu to music–and everything in between.