"Who, who?" is the owlish cry of the fashion obsessed when it comes to the fashion choices Michelle Obama will make as she orbits into position as the world's most-watched woman on Tuesday.
Whose designs will she wear to the daylong coming-out party, starting with the morning swearing-in ceremony and culminating with some nine official balls?
Mum is decidedly the word for the fashion-forward, size 8, 45-year-old mother of two. Unlike many of her predecessors, who went public with the names of the designers and actual sketches a week or so before, Obama's keeping the fashion news under tight wraps.
"The big announcement slated for over the weekend, is that there will be no announcement," says a source who has been in touch with Obama's staff. The press and the designers themselves "will find out on Tuesday, right before she wears what she wears."
Apparently, Michelle is trying to temper the fashion fervor. "She doesn't want to make a big deal out of it. She's got other things to focus on. She's a mother and trying to get settled," says the source, adding that that she has "a load" of clothing to choose from.
But speculation is running high. Some are betting on her local favorite, Chicago designer Maria Pinto, who created memorable looks along the campaign trail (a perfect purple sheath, a stunning jade A-line). Others insist she'll look toward younger, hipper talent such as Thakoon Panchigul (she wore his floral kimono-style dress to her husband's acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention) or fashion darling Jason Wu, who she wore during her interview with Barbara Walters.
Trend expert Tom Julian suggests that this may be "an opportunity to showcase more African-American designers like Tracy Reese, Rachel Roy, Stevie Wonder's wife Kai Milla or Los Angeles's Kevan Hall to name a few."
Why the intense interest? "In the fashion world, this is the Super Bowl," Cynthia Leive, Glamour magazine's editor-in-chief, said on the "Today" show.
Likewise, Robert Verdi, the fashion personality who styles other high-profile "housewives," such as Eva Longoria, says, "These are America's most esteemed people, and this is seismic, basically as big or bigger than the red carpet at the Oscars."
Julian's hoping she'll go for lesser-known designers. "The public is tired of always hearing the same big designer names, (usually unattainable except for a select wealthy few), thrown into the ring when it comes to dressing first ladies."
Verdi agrees. "I'd want her to buck the system and show you can be small time and make it big. It's the platform they ran on." If he were doing the choosing (though supposedly Obama does not have a stylist), he says, "I'd be tickled if she wore Maria Pinto, and I think Tracy Reese would be a perfect choice for the swearing-in ceremony, but whoever she wears, it has to be American. She can get away with anything in terms of color, and I could see her in rich peacock blue or purple but not flashy disco neon colors." As far as white, the inaugural gown color worn by Jacqueline Kennedy, with whom Obama is often compared, Verdi nixes it. "She shouldn't be referential to Jackie in any way."
The designers are tight-lipped about the whole affair, perhaps for fear of incurring the same kind of wrath as Hart Schaffner Marx, the American manufacturer of elegant menswear who released specific news of the president-elect's purchase of an $895 tuxedo and classic solid wool suit months ago. Apparently, the lack of privacy irked the president-elect. "He has them, but now, he may not wear them," says a source. Word to the fashion wise: Shhh.