Obama's casual style makes her fashion's first lady
Thu Apr 2, 11:37 am ET
Paul Casciato

LONDON (Reuters Life!) – First Lady Michelle Obama has wowed fashion writers with her casual style, use of color and her penchant for the sleeveless dress at the G20 summit in the British capital this week.

Newspapers in Britain and the United States were united in their praise for Obama's sartorial choices for outings with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown's wife Sarah, an official reception with Queen Elizabeth at Buckingham Palace and dinner at Number 10 Downing Street.

The right-leaning Telegraph newspaper compared Brown unfavorably with Obama, saying the PM's wife had upped her fashion game after being upstaged by French President Nicolas Sarkozy's wife Carla Bruni during an earlier visit from the French first couple only to be trounced by Obama this week.

"In her drab navy ensemble by Britt Lintner which she wore to the same engagement at Charing Cross Hospital, she paled in comparison to Michelle Obama, the fusty matron to the Glamazon," the Telegraph said.

And Obama has also put paid to those Americans fretting that the First Lady's fondness for baring her biceps might be embarrassing when she met with the British queen in a sleeveless number disguised with an elegant black cardigan. The queen wore pink.

"Changing into an elegant black-and-white Isabel Toledo dress from springy J.Crew pieces Wednesday in London, First Lady Michelle Obama showcased her versatility and officially became one of the fab four of the political fashion world in the modern era-joining Jacqueline Kennedy, French first lady Carla Bruni-Sarkozy and Princess Diana," enthused the Chicago Tribune.

The cardigan came off after the G20 dinner at the official residence of the British prime minister to even more applause from the fashion pack, revealing the sculpted biceps that New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd praised for being the "only bracing symbol of American strength right now."

The Chicago Tribune also reminded its readers that in 1961 Jacqueline Kennedy and the queen both wore sleeveless gowns with gloves for their dinner.

"There really aren't the same conservative old rules now," British-born Avril Graham, executive fashion and beauty editor at Harper's Bazaar, said.

Britain's left-leaning Guardian newspaper gave both Brown and Obama points for their "homegrown style on a budget" that would be a boost for the fashion industry.

"Today Mrs. Obama arrived at Downing Street in a fresh, colorful combination while Mrs. Brown looked smart in navy," the paper said. "But the two women's outfits had a lot in common - both had been carefully chosen to support their native fashion industry."

Calgary Avansino, Vogue magazine's executive fashion editor, said that both women had dressed to reflect their own style.

"But I think they both are obviously trying to send a very clear message that they can wear what the average women would wear and still look great and that they are not above it."

The British tabloid Mirror was also enthusiastic about Obama's populist high street style, dubbing her the "First Lady of fashion."

"Michelle Obama dazzled when she first appeared on the steps of No 10 not in a top designer outfit - but an ensemble from US high street chain J Crew," the Mirror said.

The paper priced out Obama's cream star constellation cardigan at 208 pounds ($305) and green jacquard skirt at 110 pounds before admiring her understated way with the common folks during a visit to a cancer care center in London.

Mother of five Trudi Cogdell said: "She didn't put on airs and graces - she just sat there and had a cup of tea."

The Daily Mail sounded the only sour note, saying Obama stumbled on the style front when she donned a blue cardigan with a "garish argyle pattern" over a full-skirted prom dress for a visit alongside other G20 wives and partners to the Royal Opera House, where they heard a reading from Harry Potter author JK Rowling.

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