THE SEWING DIVAS sewing, design, fashion

November 11, 2008

Learning from the Past

Filed under: Designer,Fashion,Inspirations,Uncategorized — phyllisc @ 7:48 am

mo1The fashion scrutiny of Michelle Obama has begun, and I hope she stays as on-track as she did yesterday during the Obama’s meeting at the White House.  Michelle’s dress appears to be based on the same sloper as the blue Maria Pinto design she wore to the convention.  This version has a different neckline, bodice (set in sleeves instead of dolman) and sleeve length, and also is not as skin-tight as the first version.  I also detect a set of discreet shoulder pads, which balance out her wide hips.  The raised wiast looks good on her because she is short-waisted for her height; if you compare her waist length to that of Laura Bush they are actually quite close, and Laura Bush is much shorter.  The hem length is perfect and I love that she did not go with black pumps, which of course is the cliche way out.  This dress also appears to be a knit, which means no wrinkles; a great choice since the Obama’s probably came straight from Regan National to the White House (notice that the President elect has some, ahem, crotch wrinkles in his trousers from the flight.)  I think Laura Bush’s choice of color may have been intentional; perhaps she didn’t want to steal any thunder from the Obama’s.  But she looks really matronly in that design unfortunately, and the poor lady sorely needs a better fitting bra.

The Obama’s are also wearing red, white and blue: a subtle and perfect color metaphor.  Michelle has clearly taken a page from the Jackie Kennedy/Nancy Regan book of White House fashion: figure out what works for you, and stick with it!


  1. I actually like Laura Bush’s dress, and I think she looks very good for a woman her age; but I have to agree with you about the bra–that’s the first thing I noticed.

    Comment by Betty — November 11, 2008 @ 8:53 am

  2. Read somewhere that Mrs. O’s dress is silk crepe. Whatever its fabrication, she wears it smashingly!

    Comment by Leslie in Austin — November 11, 2008 @ 8:59 am

  3. I thought the same thing about Laura Bush’s outfit – loved the dress but thought she could use a better bra! Loved, loved, loved Michelle’s outfit. I think Maria Pinto is going to be her go to choice in the White House and that is a very good thing! It is going to be an interesting 4 years watching her dress and I can’t wait to see what she picks for the Inaugral Ball and swearing in ceremonies!

    Comment by Carolyn — November 11, 2008 @ 10:01 am

  4. Well, unlike the recent election, we are all unanimous in terms of Laura Bush needing a bra fitting. I also felt that perhaps THIS particular brown might not have been Mrs. Bush’s ‘friend’ – she has a rather pale complexion and she looks almost pasty here; perhaps a printed scarf at the neck might have helped. But all in all, the one thing that would have helped that dress would have been a bra that would have hoisted Mrs. Bush into a more, ahem, supported position.

    Comment by Toby Wollin — November 11, 2008 @ 10:16 am

  5. Lol. Ok. I liked Laura’s dress too. It strikes me as very classic. But, the color, in comparison, is rather subdued. My girl Michelle though… I want to be the hanger in her closet. Her legs go on for miles!

    And, I prefer her in heels. But, I get why she shies away from them.

    Comment by cidell — November 11, 2008 @ 10:53 am

  6. I loathed what Laura was wearing. She looked OLD. Her hair and shoes were the only nice things. the Dull brown color was boring, the dress could have been improved by a better bra and a scoop neckline. I think it’s a potato sack.

    Comment by jgodsey — November 11, 2008 @ 11:03 am

  7. Give Laura props for the shoes though – classic Manolo Blahnik slingbacks. Very nice!

    Comment by Gorgeous Things — November 11, 2008 @ 11:04 am

  8. I agree with all of the sentiments regarding Mrs. Bush’s “situation”! I love Mrs. O in Maria Pinto. She should be placed on retainer!

    Comment by Erica B. — November 11, 2008 @ 11:12 am

  9. I just want to find a source for “Maria Pinto Fabrics”.

    Comment by Toby Wollin — November 11, 2008 @ 11:16 am

  10. I think that these two ladies forgot the bra in her closet. and, by God!, that has happened in the face of Mrs. Bush, looks like “JOKER” …..

    In Spain we do not see the role of first lady as something important, so that makes me thank you very much to see that again. Mrs. Obama may be a 24-hour observation. It seems a simple and cheerful woman, something good will come to him to withstand this pressure media.

    Comment by paco peralta — November 11, 2008 @ 12:27 pm

  11. I love Michelle’s dress, and don’t think Laura’s is that bad. Props to Laura for wearing the more subdued brown and letting Michelle be in the spotlight red. I do think first lady watching is going to get to be fun again! Not since the Kennedy years has the white house seen someone who has as much potential to become an American fashion icon.
    However, I have to agree with Paco, BOTH of them require a better bra. Michelle has a serious issue if my eyes don’t deceive me here, that she’d better deal with ASAP.

    Comment by Marji — November 11, 2008 @ 2:09 pm

  12. I agree that Laura Bush’s choice of color was most likely intentional, but it’s completely wrong for her coloring. On the other hand, the fit is good, whereas Michelle Obama’s dress looks to be pulling across the chest.

    Comment by Birgitte — November 11, 2008 @ 2:13 pm

  13. BTW, Phyllis, I’m waiting with bated breath for the next installment on the Rucci dress.
    I’ve been really bad about lurking lately and not posting comments, but I read with great interest your work on it so far.

    Comment by Marji — November 11, 2008 @ 2:21 pm

  14. I think Maria Pinto had better get the fit right for Michelle or she will be a ‘and she used to be designer for’………
    Michelle’s tops on both dresses she has worn from this designer could have been made to fit better….jeez! Those gathers were ‘stretched’ to their limit. Looks like it needed some dart control. And how can she (Pinto) lay claim to fame with such a simple style? Doesn’t simplicity do this pattern too?
    I like Mrs Bush’s dress, the fit and style were good. I agree though that the colour was not very becoming for her pale complexion.

    Comment by Gemma — November 11, 2008 @ 5:14 pm

  15. I love fashion, and I love to sew, but reading the dissection of the body parts of the current and future First Ladies makes me really sad. Laura Bush is 62. How long should she be expected to hoist her bosom up to a level that won’t be judged “matronly”? Is she flawed if her breasts aren’t perky? The standards we set, and the level of scrutiny we apply to ourselves and others, are ridiculous. I don’t want to be judged like this, and I doubt that Mrs. Bush and Mrs. Obama do either. They both look clean, well-groomed, and properly attired for the occasion. I don’t think we should expect anything more or less.

    Comment by KimB — November 11, 2008 @ 5:27 pm

  16. I quite like Laura Bush’s dress. Think Ms Obama’s could have had a slightly lower neckline. The dress looks like it’s trying to eat her neck!

    On the news in Australia they reported that “While Bush showed Obama the Oval Office, Laura Bush showed Michelle Obama around the living quarters” and I couldn’t help but think how mildly embarassing that must have been for a successful career woman like Michelle Obama to have to (pretend to) be excited about soft furnishings like they’re the only thing she thinks about.

    Comment by Clare — November 11, 2008 @ 5:36 pm

  17. I know I’m showing my age, but I’m a little shocked that Mrs. Obama is bare-legged. To me, it’s only appropriate to go bare-legged with something casual like a sundress, but I’m an old-fashioned prude.

    Comment by Elaray — November 11, 2008 @ 6:22 pm

  18. I just made a comment on another blog about Laura’s need of a bra fitter. Looks like I’m not alone in that sentiment.

    Comment by Cindy — November 11, 2008 @ 6:32 pm

  19. I agree with KimB…I thought both women looked lovely…if we’re going to be critical of the actual styling of the dresses, I thought Michelle Obama’s dress was ill-fitting across the shoulder, the arms, and the bust…

    Comment by M3isMe — November 11, 2008 @ 6:37 pm

  20. Ditto what everybody said, but I shudder to think that I am also scrutinized when I post photos of myself. We all do it to each other, right? Sigh…

    Comment by LindsayT — November 11, 2008 @ 9:17 pm

  21. Michelle hit the mark with this one. Excellent color, length, etc.

    Comment by dei — November 11, 2008 @ 9:22 pm

  22. Laura is a really sweet woman and I love her dearly, but God, PLEASE, get her a new bra!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Here is the rule: The nipple should be between your shoulder and elbow–hers is CLEARLY at her waist level.

    Comment by Oregon — November 11, 2008 @ 11:23 pm

  23. @KimB – I agree that it’s sad, but it’s a part of life. We all know that appearance is so important and getting to see photos like these (plus reading the comments) helps me take the trouble to try to look my best – especially now that I’m over 50. I wouldn’t have known how much a great bra helps if it hadn’t been for the Internet.

    I think Laura’s bra problem is exacerbated by Michelle’s height!!

    Comment by leanandgreen — November 12, 2008 @ 8:07 am

  24. Oh gosh, what to comment on first. I love Michelle’s dress although I agree it doesn’t fit as well about her neck and bust as it could. And I too noticed she needs to consider DIMR’s or a better bra.

    As for Laura’s bra problem, I am not sure there is one. I think the design of the bodice is more the problem and possibly the color is not helping.

    Picking apart what our First Ladies are wearing is to be expected. They represent our country and we like them to look good. I am looking forward to Michelle igniting an interest in fashion again.

    And the comment about Michelle being too educated to have an interest in White House furnishings, is just silly. Women are women and it is the White House and it is where she and her family will live for at least 4 years and probably 8. Of course she is interested. Any woman would be interested.

    Comment by Linda T — November 12, 2008 @ 2:30 pm

  25. I love Michelle Obama and everything she wears!!! I believe that she has the makings of a fashion Icon. I do agree about Mrs. bush, she needs a new bra. As women we should be able to point these things out to each other in the spirit of sisterhood.

    Comment by Lucha — November 12, 2008 @ 8:23 pm

  26. Ladies and Gent (Paco), would you believe that German News magazine ‘The Spiegel’ is reading blog comments about Michelle’s clothes? Yep!

    KimB: I don’t think Mrs Bush’s boobs should be chin high and perky either but neither should they be hanging or sitting on top of her stomach….

    As an aside: I did check mine this morning while dressing, and decided that try as I might I can’t seem to get them any higher than a third up my arm from my elbows..LOLLOL. Anymore and I’ll have boob overflow and I never feel comfortable showing more than an inch of dekolleté.

    Question: Does anyone know whether there is a pre-arrangement/agreement between Statesmen and Stateswomen as to what to wear to an éngagement?
    What did Babara wear to her first white house visit/tour to meet Hillary? Does anyone remember?

    Comment by Gemma — November 13, 2008 @ 9:59 am

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    Comment by Alexia — November 15, 2008 @ 6:57 am

  28. Both of their dresses are lovely and very classy. But, I prefer Mrs. Bush’s dress over Mrs. Obama’s. Very retro-esque. It always amazes me that fashion repeats itself. I look at dresses now (like the First Lady’s) that I would never even considered wearing 10 years ago when I was 21. As far as the bra is concerned, I would have never noticed had it not been pointed out.

    Comment by Julie — November 15, 2008 @ 1:58 pm

  29. I like both dresses for the difference in body types. I also think both ladies need to revisit the bra issue. Mrs. B needs a better fit and I believe Mrs. O needs “privacy petals”.

    Comment by susan — November 16, 2008 @ 7:51 am

  30. She looks beyond fabulous. Miss J wants a copy of this dress but thinks her large bosom might do icky things with the gathering at the neckline.

    Comment by Miss Janey — November 18, 2008 @ 1:33 pm

  31. Not since the 80s has first lady watching been so much fun!

    I love Michele but not this dress. I don’t think the high waisted thing works on her. She looks even more of an amazon than she already is and she looks disproportionate (this design draws too much attention to her top and the fact that she’s flat up there). Also high necklines are not really flattering unless you’re really young. (and even then…) THe color reminds me of a jack o’ lantern. I do like the dress from the waist down and think the length is perfect.

    As far as bare legs. In the 21st century (young) stylish urban women wear bare legs at all times (as does the editor of Vogue, Anna Wintour). There’s a fakeness to flesh toned stockings that’s just not in tune with our times. So it’s either exposed legs, pants or dark hose/tighs (for more casual wear). Unless you’re a grandma, of course. In which case, flesh tone hose rock.

    Now the hair, make-up and dress that Michele Obama wore in the recent 60 minutes interview: WOW! Stunning. Did anybody catch that? THe dress was a simple dark purple sheath.

    The thing about Mrs. Obama is that she transcends her clothes. Her personality, spirit and intellect overshadow anything she wears.

    Mrs. Bush’s dress doesn’t seem to have any shaping in the bodice! No wonder it’s dowdy. Terribly unflattering. Also, I don’t think I’ve ever noticed how busty she is before. There’s no reason for a wealthy older woman to look like this. She can look her age (no need to have her boobs hiked up so high that they’re smacking her chin) AND still look stylish. The always fabulously turned out Nancy Reagan comes to mind.

    Comment by CLF — November 18, 2008 @ 10:21 pm

  32. Okay…not be overly critical here…….since I have thought that Mrs. O’s fashion choices have been fabulous (except for election night…oh my!)…but

    …as fabulous as this red dress is…um…her bra choice was not a good one..or perhaps she was not wearing one, as there appears to have been a cool “nippy” wind when the pic was snapped 😉

    Comment by Pam~Off The Cuff~ — November 19, 2008 @ 8:41 am

  33. I agree with the comment Mrs. O’s dress style:

    ***I don’t think the high waisted thing works on her. She looks even more of an amazon than she already is and she looks disproportionate (this design draws too much attention to her top and the fact that she’s flat up there)***

    Might I add that empire/high waist styles are also for the young…ger imo.

    I saw her dress in the 60min programme too and something was wrong with that dress as well. It was riding up something awful.

    Comment by Gemma — November 19, 2008 @ 11:17 am

  34. Even though I am an old lady, I agree that bare legs are the only way to go these days. Pantyhose feel so dated. So since I can’t expose 60 year old legs except in a pair of discreet capris with sandals in the summer time, I wear only trousers in colder weather. That takes care of the pantyhose issue. Besides, most of us can’t wear the kind of shoe you need to wear with a dress or skirt anyway once we are past 50. At least not very often.

    Poor Michelle! And poor Laura. I agree with the writer that said something like how long do we have to hoist them up? It’s absurd.

    Comment by Claudia — November 19, 2008 @ 3:45 pm

  35. I have to say I think George is the best dressed on this occasion.

    Comment by Geri — November 20, 2008 @ 9:14 am

  36. Yes, lord, yes, the bra! Laura Bush’s bra!! No, we’re not asking that she be Pamela Anderson, but at no point in any woman’s life should her breast be resting on her belt.

    Comment by Style Spy — November 25, 2008 @ 10:09 am

  37. I think this was a good choice for Michelle Obama. I think this dress is actually better than the one she wore on the election night. I still think she needs a personal stylist. She is not complete or she does not know that much about how to dress alone. There is always something, lets mention here she did not wear stockings to the white house, but actually most people here don’t use then. Now that she is going to be the first lady she needs to dress more appropiated. I think Mrs. Bush dress is ok for her age. She is always dress in accordance. About the bra, maybe she needs to try Victoria Secret or just get some surgery.

    I live in the DC Metro area and I particulary think that most people (common people) lack of style in the area. I really hope that another change that the Obama family might bring here is a better sense of fashion for the capital. People here are really boring when it comes to fashion. So that is my wish! 😛

    Comment by Lizz — December 3, 2008 @ 8:52 pm

  38. I’m 37, and I still wear “stockings” with my dressy clothes. Yes, I agree that the First Lady should wear proper foundation garments when in public! The princess-like waistline is far to high for Mrs. Obama’s height. Both dresses are a bit off for me. Love the blog!

    Comment by Reader — December 5, 2008 @ 11:42 pm

  39. 1st: to the reader who thinks Michelle Obama must have been embarrassed about being shown the “soft furnishings” and not been discussing politics. A well rounded woman appreciates both & obviously with Mrs. Obama’s love of fashion I’m betting she loved touring her new home.

    2nd: Neither woman looks their best if we’re really going to dissect them. Michelle needs to push the waistline a little further south. Unfortunately, this dress looks a little Barnum & Bailey clownish to me. She is a striking woman and the color looks great, the waistline plus pleating…egh.

    On styling: I would LOVE to have Michelle’s long legs, but most of your better stylists know that the most attractive form is the balanced form. Her stylist should focus on balancing her body and bringing attention to what she looks like as a whole and not how tall or leggy she is.

    Comment by Charity — December 24, 2008 @ 1:51 pm

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