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Michelle Obama blends rather than blasts on Inauguration Day

First lady Michelle Obama arrives during the presidential

First lady Michelle Obama arrives during the presidential inauguration on the West Front of the US Capitol in Washington, DC. (Jan. 21, 2013) (Credit: Getty Images)

While her newly cut bangs were notable, Michelle Obama seemed to be sending a quieter, albeit high fashion, message during Inauguration 2013, opting for appropriate yet conservative looks -- some of which she’s worn before -- that had her blending in rather than standing out.

First glimpse of the first lady this morning showed her in a beautifully tailored, custom dark blue modern coat with small white checks by New York- based designer Thom Browne, whose roots lie in menswear. Browne, whose distribution is very limited, designs a capsule collection for Brooks Brothers and entered the womenswear category in 2010. Women's Wear Daily, which reached Browne in Paris, quoted him as saying, "“It’s amazing and one of the most humbling moments when you know she had so much to choose from. Words cannot describe it.”

The coat, according to style expert Kate Betts, the author of “Everyday Icon: Michelle Obama and the Power of Style,” (Clarkson Potter, $35), “is made of tie silk fabric. Maybe it’s a sign she’s getting down to business. It fits like a glove.”

Reportedly, her light blue pumps were J. Crew as was an added-later belt and the purple gloves (a needed pop of color). Her necklace was designed by Cathy Waterman. For the outdoor portion of the ceremony, the first lady replaced the pumps with Reed Krakoff booties. At the official luncheon, Obama showed off the dress beneath, a reverse print of the coat with structured seams topped by a blue cropped J. Crew cardigan.

Four years ago, Obama donned an Isabel Toledo lemongrass coat suit embellished with sequins that was a standout. Today, much more subdued, she bookended her husband's look -- a navy suit with a pale blue tie.

Obama turned out Sunday night at an inaugural party at The National Building Museum in Washington, D.C., in a smart, black sequined boat-neck dress by Michael Kors that she wore in 2009 for the Congressional Hispanic Caucus dinner. The president, in a nod to the keen fashion interest in his wife's style, opened his speech by saying, “I'd like to talk about all of the important events of the weekend. First of all, I love her bangs.” And for Sunday’s official swearing-in ceremony, she chose a Reed Krakoff dress that was almost a dead-on match for the drapes in the room.

Fashion stars of the day were the Obama girls, whose vividly colored, princess-style coats --  Sasha in a deep purple Kate Spade ensemble and Malia in magenta J. Crew --  blazed. “It's all about the next generation,” Betts said. “The tableau of them walking into the church was stunning.” Deborah Lloyd, Kate Spade’s president and creative director, said of Sasha's outfit, “She epitomizes the youthful optimism and colorful spirit of the brand.”

The fashion world awaits the first lady's choice of gown for this evening's festivities. Last time around, she wore Jason Wu, catapulting the then small-name designer into the limelight. Stay tuned.

Tags: Michelle Obama , Thom Browne , Inauguration 2013 , President Obama , Malia Obama , Sasha Obama , J. Crew , Cathy Waterman , Kate Betts , Isabel Toledo , Jason Wu

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