A Beacon of Style and Optimism

BlogHer Original Post

Barack Obama Is Sworn In As 44th President Of The United States

Through the sea of black wool overcoats that converged on our nation’s capital yesterday, Mrs. O shined bright. Wearing a custom Isabel Toledo coat and dress in bright lemongrass yellow, our First Lady, Mrs. O, was a beacon of both style and optimism.

The Isabel Toledo coat and dress were made of Swiss wool lace, backed with netting for warmth and lined in French silk – materials and nuanced details characteristic of couture. Green leather J. Crew gloves, coordinating Jimmy Choo “Glacier” pumps and a rectangular diamond pin worn at the neckline added unexpected, personal touches, making the look even more uniquely Mrs. O’s own.

Yellow was an unexpected but well-chosen color for Mrs. O’s debut ensemble as First Lady. In this difficult and trying economic time, it projected a true sense of optimism. Elaborating on the choice, designer Isabel Toledo told Cathy Horyn of the New York Times, “I wanted to pick a very optimistic color, that had sunshine.” Toledo’s sentiments echo those of the color house Pantone, which recently named “Mimosa” the color of 2009 for its “hopefulness and reassurance in a climate of change."

Yellow is also not a color often associated with the winter season. Easter, yes. Mid-January, no. But known for breaking fashion conventions – who can forget the black flats for the final night of the DNC? – Mrs. O again made her own fashion rules. The result was a grown-up ensemble with a modern, fresh twist.

Taking in the scene at the capital yesterday, it was difficult not to recall an image of Jacqueline Kennedy on the day of J.F.K.’s Inauguration. At the time, Mrs. Kennedy famously opted for fawn-colored wool coat with sable collar, in part a strategic move to stand out from the sea of oversized furs. Deliberate or not, Mrs. O’s yellow ensemble achieved the same effect more than 45 years later.

The choice of designer, Isabel Toledo, was a name less frequently mentioned in the months of speculation surrounding Mrs. O’s Inaugural wardrobe – but a complete surprise, it was not. Mrs. O had previously worn a black tunic and palazzo pants by Isabel Toledo (masterfully accessorized with a Tom Binns necklace) to attend the high profile Vogue / Calvin Klein campaign fundraiser in June 2008. Later interviewed by the New York Daily News in October 2008, Toledo revealed she had been working on several more designs for Mrs. O.

A designer widely unknown to American public, but celebrated within the inner circles of fashion, the choice of Isabel Toledo, then and now, shows Mrs. O to be a knowledgeable, astute student of fashion. Toledo works from her loft on 28th St. and Broadway in Manhattan that she shares with her husband Ruben Toledo, an acclaimed fashion illustrator. Toledo was the Creative Director of Anne Klein for two seasons, and has designed under the label of her own name for 25 years.

“I wanted her to feel charmed, and in that way would charm everybody,” said Toledo to Cathy Horyn. Charm us, Mrs. O did. For more information on Mrs. O’s fashion and style, visit Mrs-O.org.

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