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Jamie Stiehm

Jamie Stiehm

Posted April 3, 2009 | 11:26 AM (EST)

Michelle Obama in Black and White x 3


The first time we beheld Michelle Obama and her husband as a vision in black and white was on January 20, 2009, the evening of all the Inaugural Balls.

They looked charmed, as if like they could dance all night at each affair. But what was truly smashing was the subliminal message contained in their clothes: a happy harmony of black and white.

Michelle Obama's one-shouldered chiffon gown showed off her beautiful bone structure and beaming face. The creamy white creation by designer Jason Wu made a striking contrast to the president's flawless black tux with white bowtie.

Sparkling white on bespoke black: you can't beat that classic elegance wherever you sail or fly around the world. The Obamas, with their shrewd political horse sense, didn't do that just by chance. They were saying, America, wake up from the nightmare! Black and white are finally fused and we two are one in Washington tonight. So are we all.

A dramatic sartorial statement, yet black on white got lost in translation on one of the most joyful evenings in American history. I let the Obamas' deft symbolism go down without a write.

Next thing I knew, the First Lady's official White House portrait, taken in the Blue Room, was published. Another gorgeous sleeveless dress that showed off her bold countenance and strong shoulders, this time in black. But then again, the double strand of white pearls, made the portrait another Obama fusion in black and white.

This simple, powerful coffee with cream blend showed up again today in London. Black and white proved for the third time in three months that it's not just a fashion choice. What better way to present oneself to the Queen of England if you are new, First Lady Michelle Obama? To Queen Elizabeth II and world leaders gathered there this week, the look makes crystal clear that we, the American people, are not the usual cup of tea anymore.

Much has been said about a supposed effort to echo Jacqueline Kennedy of the early 1960s, but I think Michelle Obama knows exactly who she is and how she is playing on a vast stage. Her approval ratings are up to 76% and she seems easy and secure in her own skin, with a strong Midwestern no-nonsense streak running through her. She is 45, about a dozen years older than Mrs. Kennedy was during her White House years.

Michelle Obama grasped going in that she reflects the state of the nation in a more personal way than her husband, President Obama. Just as Mamie Eisenhower represented the dowdy domesticity of the dark-sided 1950s, Michelle Obama has a historic opportunity to mirror us in the moment as a society that is both black and white. For the first time, really, we overcame our tragic racial past voluntarily -- without a fight, a march, or a court order.

And look at how good they go together.