Celebrity Style Deconstructed: Michelle Obama

Winning over the fashion critics can be as difficult as getting into office, and as her husband rose to power in the political realm, Michelle Obama proved she, too, was a force to be reckoned with. It’s not just her strong, yet elegant demeanor or her obvious intelligence that won the world over. For many, it was her timeless and classic, yet somewhat daring style that made us love her.

From her signature nipped-waist dresses and embellished cardigans to those shoulder-baring gowns and bold graphic prints, Mrs. Obama has been a force of style to reckon with since joining her husband on the campaign trail in 2008. How great of an impact does she have on fashion? The first lady generates a cool $2.7 billion in sales from an army of chic copycats.

Effortlessly, she is able to mix American designers such as Thakoon, Isaac Mizrahi and Michael Kors with affordable wears from Talbots, J.Crew and Banana Republic. Oh yes, she’s a budget fashionista just like the rest of us, only with a few extra tricks up her perfectly tailored sleeve. Want to capture a little of her magic for yourself? Here’s what you need to know.

How to Get Michelle Obama’s Style

Mix frugal finds with designer duds
She’ll wear Alexander McQueen one day and a $34 H&M dress the next, and sometimes, mix couture with off-the-rack in the same outfit. She wears ASOS and J.Crew regularly when making appearances, but what does she never go cheap on? Jewelry, shoes, and outerwear. The same should be true for you, as these three items cannot be faked, but rather, could make a $15 dress from Forever 21 look chic. We’re all about the Banana Republic cardigans and Gap pants, but when it comes brooches, heels and coats, we’ve got to choke it up and cough up the cash. As Michelle knows well, it’s worth it.

Skirt and Pants

1. Swoon Skirt, $60, J. Crew
2. Trouser Jean, $98, J. Crew

Show off your playful side

Mrs. O can upstage almost any royal, political figure or celebrity she mingles with because of one trait: playfulness. While other VIPs show up in neutrals, sheath dresses we’ve seen 100 times before and nude pantyhose, Michelle stands out from the crowd in floral prints, bright colors and fun accessories. Whatever the occasion and whomever your company, you can do the same.

Playful Side of Michelle Obama

Credits: Edgard Garrido/Reuters/Landov and Felipe Dana/AP

Colorful Dresses

3. Envi Pleated V-Neck Dress, $98, Bluefly
4. Splendid Tie-Dye MAxi Dress, $128, Bloomingdale’s

… But don’t break the rules
Michelle has fun with her clothes, but she knows her limits. While she loves to play with colors and prints, she would never mess with short hemlines and plunging necklines. It may be tempting to cross a few lines in your attempt to add personality to your work wardrobe or an evening ensemble, but some rules, especially in Michelle’s world, should not be broken. Take charge of your outfits, but have respect for decorum.

Michelle Obama Staples

Credits: Joyce Boghosian/Reuters/Landov and Getty Images

Black Dresses

5. Starburst Sheath Dress, $99, Calvin Klein
6. Elizabeth J Ruched Lace Sheath Dress, $158, Nordstrom

Stick with your staples
A cardigan, a belt and a skirt or dress (a-line or sheath, she loves them both) are all you need to replicate 90% of Michelle’s daytime looks. Find a wide belt in a neutral hue and pair it with a colorful cardi. Throw them on over a printed or bright-colored skirt or dress and voila! You’ve mastered the “Michelle.” Now, to find a cute pair of flats ….

Staples of Michelle Obama

Credit: Petr Josek/REUTERS/Landov and Vogue


7. mark Weave It To Me Belt, $10, Avon
8. Lianne Rose-Print Cardigan, $70, Banana Republic

Shift your paradigm
It may seem overwhelming to think of imitating the style of the first lady, so try to think of it in a less intimidating way. Unless she’s at a charity ball, a tea with royalty or, say, an inauguration, Michelle’s style reminds us mainly of a super chic soccer mom. After all, before being the first lady, a spokesperson for a variety of worthy causes and an international fashion sensation, she’s first and foremost a wife and mother, and she dresses as such.

Super Chic Soccer Mom

Credits: Splash News Online and Splash News Online

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Catherine Brock

Style Editor at The Budget Fashionista
Catherine Brock is a writer, editor and marketer who's been sharing wisdom online since 2002. She's been featured on DrLaura.com, Wellness.com and ABC7 Chicago, FOX2News St. Louis and KCAL9 Los Angeles. Connect with Catherine on LinkedIn, Instagram, or Twitter.
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