Yesterday, Barack and Michelle Obama received the Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his wife Gursharan Kaur at the White House. Later in the day, Michelle wore a skirt by Indian-American designer Rachel Roy to speak about that evening's State Dinner. For the event, she wore a dress by another Indian-American designer, Naeem Khan. The gown was no last-minute decision. Created in what sounds like a highly secure top secret State operation, Khan orchestrated the design with Ikram Goldman, the First Lady's unofficial stylist in Chicago. He had been asked to create something "Indian, chic, simple, but very glamorous." Khan submitted three or four gowns for the event, and Michelle made quite the extravagant choice. Mrs. O reports:
The strapless gown features hand cut sterling silver sequins sewn on nude silk chiffon, which create an abstract floral pattern. The dress is entirely handmade, requiring three weeks of work by 40 people, completed in Naeem Kahn's family workshop in India.
What she lacked in diamonds (though she wore some in the bracelet stack on her arm), she made up for in subtle handiwork. Evidently this was no time to wear a J.Crew cardigan and waist belt she'd been seen gardening in seventeen times since moving to the White House. This gown was planned way in advance, like prom or something.
Meanwhile, White House social secretary and noted fashionista Desiré Rogers made a surprising choice of gown for the occasion: a Comme des Garçons piece from the fall 2009 collection (which leaves us to believe she purchased it retail). Disappointingly, she left the mesh face covering from the runway look out of her ensemble. The dress is nice on her, but if she's going to try to draw attention to herself with an avant-garde ballgown, she may as well go all-out and mimic the runway look as precisely as possible. And she most definitely should have worn the flats with the toes drawn on them. Washington wouldn't have gotten it, but her real soul sisters in New York, Paris, and Tokyo would have wept with pride. And it's never too early to start campaigning for prime front-row real estate for the next round of shows in February.