Join ESSENCE.com as we take a look back at Mom-in-Chief Michelle Obama from her very first days as First Lady to present.
It might have been a cold day in Washington, D.C., on January 20 but souls were warm as ever in the capital for the swearing in of our forty-fourth President. A supportive Mrs. Obama was right by her husband’s side in a gorgeous two-piece airy green ensemble from Isabel Toledo. A pro at effortlessly mixing high and low fashions, the First Lady completed her look with leather gloves from one of her go-to brands, J.Crew.
Our First Lady shocked virtually all of the fashion industry when she opted for this modern one-shoulder ivory silk chiffon gown from newbie designer Jason Wu for the inaugural balls on January 20. The 26-year-old Taiwan native told ESSENCE.com of his design, “I wanted the dress to be powerful and feminine. It had to represent hope, and white is like a clean slate. We are starting a new chapter in our country and I wanted the dress to represent that.”
When Michelle Obama visited the Department of the Interior on February 9, she was greeted with a traditional Native American “honor song” and draped in a lavender shawl for women of high achievement. After thanking the department for their commitment to protecting the country’s wildlife, she announced that her husband would soon appoint a senior White House policy adviser dedicated to tribal issues.
The First Lady paid a visit to Mary’s Center, a Washington community health organization serving Spanish-speaking patients, on February 10. In addition to meeting with administrators and high school students from the center’s after-school program, the First Lady read to (and hugged) a group of 3- to 5-year-olds.
The First Lady is feminine and fashionable in a 1950’s-inspired Isabel Toledo black and white dress with a sheer houndstooth overlay. Mrs. Obama joined her husband and a host of actors in celebrating the two-hundredth anniversary of the birth of President Lincoln on February 11 in Washington, D.C.
As part of her mission to open the doors of the White House to the Washington, D.C., community, on February 18 the First Lady hosted a Black History Month celebration for 180 sixth- and seventh-graders from Washington elementary schools. African-American a capella group Sweet Honey In the Rock performed. “As the President and First Lady, Barack and I are just the caretakers of this house. We’re just borrowing it for a little bit,” she said. "And while we live here, we’re your neighbors. And we want you to feel welcome at the White House, which really is the people’s house that belongs to all of us.”
Mrs. Obama opens up The White House kitchen to local culinary students from L’Academie de Cuisine to check out desserts created by pastry chef Bill Yosses. She revealed some of the First Family’s favorite recipes in a hand-embellished cobalt Jason Wu sheath on February 22.
The President can’t keep his eyes off of his stunning wife and neither can we. Here, the First Lady wears a sleek black sequined gown from Peter Soronen and further dazzled with an elaborate crystal-and-pearl necklace by Tom Binns at the White House Governors Dinner on February 22.
At President Obama’s speech at a joint session of Congress on February 25, Mrs. Obama listened from a balcony in the House chamber next to Ty’Sheoma Bethea, an eighth-grader from South Carolina, whose plea for lawmakers for school repair funds put a human face on the President’s economic stimulus package.
The First Lady pays tribute to musical icon Stevie Wonder during his White House concert on February 26 when he was honored with the Gershwin Award for Lifetime Achievement. The stunning emerald green frock is, ironically, by Stevie’s wife, Kai Milla.
Mrs. Obama chose to show off her toned triceps and biceps in her first official photograph as First Lady. The image drew quite a bit of attention as some conservatives felt her arms should have been covered and that her Michael Kors dress was too informal and out of season.
Mrs. Obama marked Women’s History Month on March 3 with a visit to U.S. servicewomen at Arlington National Cemetery’s Women in Military Service Memorial Center. “I want to thank you all for your service, for your courage, for your dedication, for your commitment,” she said to an audience of about 150 military personnel.
On March 5 Mrs. Obama surprised guests at Miriam’s Kitchen, a D.C. soup kitchen that serves daily meals to the homeless, by helping serve up a lunch of mushroom risotto, broccoli, muffins and fruit salad. “We are facing some tough times in this country,” she said, before encouraging others to volunteer at similar organizations. “There’s a moment when each of us needs a helping hand.”
The First Lady joined Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on March 11 for the State Department’s “International Women of Courage” Awards Ceremony, which recognizes women working to advance human rights around the world. “The difference between a broken community and a thriving one is the presence of women who are valued,” said Obama in brief remarks. “Where relationships among women and between women and men are based on mutual respect.”
On March 12, Mrs. Obama traveled to Fort Bragg military base in North Carolina, where she met with soldiers and their families, and called on Americans to reach out to the military families in their communities. “Something as simple as offering help with car pool duty can make the world of difference to a parent who’s trying to hold the family together during a very stressful time,” she said.
On March 19, Mrs. Obama dispatched a group of celebrity women to speak at Washington-area schools to talk about career goals and reaching their dreams. Gathered at the White House Diplomatic Room that morning, Mrs. Obama encouraged the women—including, among others, Debbie Allen, Tracee Ellis Ross, Phylicia Rashad and Sheryl Crow—to share their personal stories. “In the D.C. schools, many of these kids need to see us,” she said. “Just imagine what they’re going to feel at the end of this day.”
On March 19, First Lady Michelle Obama visited 13 students at Anacostia High School, a public school in Southeast D.C., where they asked her questions and talked about issues they were dealing with. Teachers picked the students to meet the First Lady for overcoming adversity and showing potential. “I didn’t want to only talk to kids who had already arrived; I wanted to talk to kids who are pushing to get to the next place,” Mrs. Obama told them.
The First Lady made her London entrance on March 31 in a chartreuse Jason Wu dress topped with a black Michael Kors coat. Mrs. Obama used her trusty studded Azzedine Alaia belt to accent the look’s empire waistline.
For their visit with Queen Elizabeth II on April 1, the First Lady joined the President in a black Azzedine Alaia cardigan paired with an ivory and black dress from Isabel Toledo. She completed the look with her signature double-strand pearl necklace. Many such as veteran fashion designer Oscar de la Renta questioned Obama wearing a sweater for such an upscale event.
While in London with her husband for the G-20 global economic summit, First Lady Michelle Obama addressed girls at the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Language School, where 90 percent of students are ethnic minorities. “Nothing in my life’s path ever would have predicted that I would be standing here as the first African-American First Lady," an emotional Obama told an assembly of 200 excited girls, before telling them that they too could control their own destinies.
A custom-made red and black floral sheath with contrasting coat from Thakoon was the ensemble of choice for the First Lady when she joined the President for a visit with the French President Nicolas Sarkozy and his wife, Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, on April 3.
Mrs. Obama has become stylishly notorious for her belted looks. While accompanying the President to a speech in Prague on April 5, the First Lady is casual chic in a crisp white Moschino blouse, a black Michael Kors pencil skirt and cardigan topped off with an Azzedine Alaia belt.
On April 9, the First Lady planted seedlings for the new White House kitchen garden with the help of fifth-graders from D.C.’s Bancroft Elementary School. She explained that she hopes the garden, which will supply fresh produce for the First Family and White House dinners, encourages healthy eating among Americans.
The First Lady is open about her close relationship to her mother, Mrs. Marian Robinson. For the first time ever, the First Lady and the First Grandmother appeared on the cover of ESSENCE for the May 2009 issue. In a move that working women across the globe can appreciate, Mrs. Obama wore a floral dress from the budget-friendly retailer Talbots for the historic photo shoot.
For the “Take Your Children To Work Day” on April 23, Mrs. Obama opted for a Junya Watanbe fuchsia cardigan that was very similar to the one she wore in London on April 2 and the white bow blouse by Moschino that was first seen in Prague on April 5.
What has been your favorite First Lady moment thus far?