Decoding The First Lady’s Inauguration Look

This TV segment aired on 10 Connects At 4:00 on January 21, 2009. A link to watch is at the bottom of this post.

We can tell a lot about a person by the clothes they wear. Image isn’t everything. However, our outfit does generate an instant emotional reaction and sets the tone for our communication and actions.

Michelle Obama was brilliant in her clothing choice for the inauguration. Her outfit was traditional and original, approachable and glamorous. It signaled the distinctly new elements of the Obama Presidency while still representing reverence for the Office of the President.

The underlying message of any outfit can be “translated/decoded” by analyzing the elements – style, color, and fabric.

Style – The style of the First lady’s look was modest, classic, and monochromatic. The outfit mirrored the choices of past First Ladies and was traditional in this respect. The style element showed respect for tradition.

Color –The color gold is classic, inviting and regal. It was appropriate for the occasion and at the same time unique and unexpected since past First Ladies have chosen variations of red, white, or blue. Gold is a dominant color in traditional African fabrics, so this color also reflects Mrs. Obama’s personal heritage. The green shoes are a totally unexpected element of surprise. The colors of her outfit are a metaphore for the “Change” this family represents.

Fabric – The Isabel Toledo wool lace suit has a texture that looks like it feels good to the touch. Texture is very effective in making people feel closer to you – it makes the wearer seem warm and open. The crystal details add a little glamour. The fabric element communicates an openness for the American people (texture) and at the same time reinforces the regal quality (sparkle).

The message of The First lady’s outfit is “I respect the traditions of the Presidency, I am a new breed, I am approachable, and I expect your respect.”

Go to to download Sarah’s tips on what colors mean.

What’s Sarah Wearing?

Purple silk and cashmere sweater with ruffle neckline (bostonproper, brown/bronze trousers (Alberto Makali), and Brown suede platform boots (Enzo).

Here’s a link to the segment. Thanks for watching!

Leave a reply