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Michelle Obama inspires spring designs

The images played from last week's inauguration are indelible and, despite the magnitude of the moment, many relate to the fashion choices of the new first lady.

For the swearing-in, Michelle Obama chose a regal lace ensemble in lemongrass by Isabel Toledo. A similar outfit in Toledo's collection costs $2,125, but insiders estimate that customizing, including lacework and cashmere lining, may have added thousands. Toledo will sell a spring version at Barney's New York for $1,500.

For the balls, Jason Wu designed a dreamy, one-of-a-kind white chiffon gown. Wu's evening wear sells for $3,000 to $6,000, though this custom number reportedly would run about $10,000.

Both a little out of your price range? No problem. Ready-to-wear manufacturers were on it as soon as they saw it, with "interpretive" looks (did somebody say knockoffs?) they hope will light a fire under slumping sales.

Click to see photos of Michelle Obama's style.

ABS owner Allen B. Schwartz, known for his red carpet looks, predicts "the first lady is going to be huge for the fashion business." He loved the Wu gown. "If I had to rate her from one to 10, I would give her 50." His version will sell for between $300 and $350, and he's doing her day look as well. The coat, $250, and dress, $150, will debut in stores in the next 90 days.

At, an entire page is dedicated to Michelle Obama's style, though a version of the famous evening gown - pre-order now, $320, for March 15 shipping - is the only true knockoff. "Her gown was celebratory, a little different than her typical simple style," says chief executive Joanne Stoner, adding that their interpretation is younger, to appeal to prom-goers.

And New York-based company Faviana created a First Lady Collection,' with both inaugural looks as well as styles inspired by Maria Pinto, Obama's favorite Chicago designer. Faviana spokeswoman Linda Mann is matter-of-fact about the replications: "The Obamas have become style icons, and this is the democratization of fashion. In the fashion industry, knockoffs are the name of the game, and we're giving the average consumer a bit of fantasy style that she can afford."

Click to see photos of Michelle Obama's style.


'Lemongrass is the new black," was being proclaimed mere hours after Michelle Obama chose the color for her inaugural wardrobe. With spring clothes starting to appear in stores, you'll soon be able to add the sunny shade to your wardrobe.


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