Isabel Toledo loved lace long before Michelle Obama discovered both Toledo and lace.
Toledo--who designed the now world-famous, lemongrass-yellow coat and sheath dress, made of Swiss wool lace, that Michelle Obama wore to her husband's inauguration--said she has been working with the manufacturer of the lace, St. Gallen, Switzerland-based Forster Rohner, "almost 20 years, even before I could afford them. They make beautiful lace."
The admiration society evidently is mutual: The Swiss Embassy in Washington has asked Toledo to do an invitation-only fashion show in Washington this fall of garments made from and inspired by Forster Rohner's laces and cotton-embroidered fabrics. Toledo will create 20 new looks for the show.
A public event, featuring a conversation with Toledo and her husband, Ruben, an illustrator and her collaborator, will also be held at the Textile Museum in Washington.
Toledo's most famous lace creation is on display through September 26 at the Museum at FIT in New York City; it is part of a retrospective that was in the works long before the inauguration.
Besides the inaugural outfit--on public view for the first time--a number of designs in the exhibit showcase Toledo's use of lace. These include the "Red Neck" dress, which has a red silk tie and short silhouette, and is made of different kinds of lace cut into small pieces and reassembled into what the Cuban-born Toledo calls "a good, old American patchwork quilt." The jersey crepe "Pedestal" dress is decorated with a patchwork of crocheted cotton lace and silk. And the caramel-colored, Infanta-style tank dress and butterfly-wing jacket are made of reembroidered silk lace.
Toledo, who wore her husband's white carpenter's pants and a jacket and baseball blouse of white Swiss cotton lace to the press preview for the exhibit, said she is still designing clothes for Michelle Obama. The latest outfit, ordered through the Ikram boutique in Chicago: a black silk, shirred "Jazz" dress, from Toledo's fall/winter 2009 collection.