When Michelle Obama wore a white, one-shoulder gown by Jason Wu to the Inaugural Ball in 2009, the then 26-year-old designer was, as the New York Times described him, “barely known outside the fashion beltway.”
Four years later, Wu, whom the First Lady wore again to the Inaugural Ball Monday evening, has reached mass recognition, having launched a diffusion line with Target in early 2012. The young designer has also partnered with St. Regis hotels on a luggage line and with faucet company Brizo on a bathroom collection, in addition to dressing celebrities such as Diane Kruger, Zoe Saldana and Michelle Williams for red carpet appearances.
The red, chiffon and velvet dress he designed for Obama on Monday night will only raise Wu’s growing profile. The sleeveless gown showed off Obama’s famously toned arms, and she accessorized it with a handmade diamond embellished ring by jewelry designer Kimberly McDonald, and shoes by Jimmy Choo.
Obama’s pick surprised many fashion critics, who thought she would give the honor to another designer this time around. But in one way, the First Lady’s decision to repeat the designer was a perfectly fitting end to a campaign season defined by her recycled outfits, most notably the magenta Michael Kors dress she wore on Election Night.