the dress

Jason Wu and Isabel Toledo Speak on Michelle Obama

Where were you last night when Michelle Obama emerged at the Neighborhood Ball in her ivory Jason Wu gown? We were on the Stairmaster at the gym, and when the caption popped up on the screen revealing that Jason Wu designed the gown, we let out a squeal and a string of expletives and slapped a hand over our mouths. We were shocked and delighted that she chose the 26-year-old New York–based designer. We had no idea what she’d wear, but in our heart-of-hearts we expected Thakoon, Narciso Rodriguez, or Maria Pinto. For a 26-year-old little-known designer, this was huge.

Wu and Isabel Toledo spoke to Meredith Vieira on the Today show this morning. Though Ikram boutique in Chicago had requested clothes for Michelle from both designers, neither knew what she’d wear until she emerged. Wu said he was home watching the balls on TV when he first saw Michelle in his silk-chiffon gown embellished with organza and Swarovski rhinestones. “I was glued to the TV — I’d been all day,” Wu said. “We had an Obama day in the office … I think words couldn’t describe how I felt. I was awestruck.”

Why white? “I wanted to design a gown that would highlight her best features. I wanted to say something about who she is,” Wu said. “I see her as a powerful, energetic, incredible woman. I wanted the gown to have a dreamlike quality because it’s pretty surreal.” But Wu plans to come back down to Earth soon so he can buckle down for his Fashion Week show in three weeks — sure to be one of the most anticipated of the season.

After Michelle emerged yesterday morning in an Isabel Toledo coat and dress, the designer said people began camping outside her door clamoring for her designs. When Toledo saw Michelle walk out in her creation, she felt tears. “I was so happy, so, so impressed with her choice also to wear Jason Wu when I found out,” she said. Why lemongrass? “I wanted a color that felt fresh. I wanted a color that had optimism. And I chose lace — in fact it’s wool lace — because it’s not a flat surface, it has all this depth — I felt it had more life to give her.” She called the choice of the green J. Crew gloves “perfect.”

The unexpected daytime and nighttime looks solidified Michelle’s position as a fashion wild card yesterday. Every time she steps out of the house, the world will notice what she wears. Just one reason we have a crazy and exciting four years ahead of us.

Obama Dress Designers Speak Out [Today]

Jason Wu and Isabel Toledo Speak on Michelle Obama