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Say bye bye to Michelle Obama's granny pants as her China trip ends a lacklustre fashion outing

Published on Mar 26, 2014 9:55 PM

United States First Lady Michelle Obama, is visiting China on a seven-day trip to expand Sino-American relations. She met her host, China's First Lady Madam Peng Liyuan for the first time on Friday.

The visit is closely watched - at least on the style front, as both women have earned the status of fashion icon. Follow Urban's editorial supervisor Elisabeth Gwee's fashion watch.

Day 7

Mrs Obama wraps up her week-long trip to China in yet another comfy, casual ensemble. Here she is at the Giant Panda Research Base in Chengdu with Malia, Sasha and her mother Marian Robinson, all looking extremely matching in different shades of blue. The four of them later departed from Chengdu Shuangliu airport for the US.

Overall, Mrs Obama's travel wardrobe proved very disappointing, given how much attention has been showered on her as a style icon. The best outfit she wore was to her first official dinner engagement in Beijing. She was in a Naeem Khan dress that one can imagine was a hit with her hosts with its auspicious colour and resemblance to Chinese paper cut art. A pity she did not pack more of such interesting and chic pieces. 

Perhaps she should remember to pack a stylist too on her next trip out.

Day 6

She's been seen in flats over the last few days, but the one day when they would really have come in handy, she switches to kitten heels. Well, at least Mrs Obama makes for a pretty picture here, as she does tai chi with students from the Chengdu No7 High School.

The graphic-print dress and cardigan make an interesting match, but it would have been even better if they were in colour.
It's odd that Mrs Obama, known for her love of bright shades, has worn so much black this trip. One would have thought she'd use this opportunity to wear her brightest, most auspicious coloured pieces by Prabal Gurung and Jason Wu.

Perhaps she was going for comfort more than anything else. As she told US Vogue in April 2013, “If you’re comfortable in your clothes, it’s easy to connect with people and make them feel comfortable as well.”

Day 5

Michelle Obama took in the sights in Xi'an today, visiting the Terra Cotta Warriors Museum and Xi’an City Wall.

While she learnt about the history of the place, she provided us with a lesson in how to pick a top that makes you look like you have a bigger belly and hips than you really do.

This monochromatic top has panels laid out in such a way that her mid-section looks larger than it really is. What an unfortunate optical illusion.

If only she had kept her jacket on throughout. Worn together with the top, it actually looked very chic since the jacket's lapels match the top.

Day 4

Yet another disappointing day for fashion watchers.

Hopes were raised when we were treated to a burst of colour in the morning, when Mrs Obama attended a roundtable on the topic of education at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing. She wore a fuschia wrap dress with red dots on it.

But by afternoon, she was back to the dreary dull colours she has mostly been seen in since the start of the trip. Photos of her at the Great Wall of China show her all in black.

Perhaps she should take some fashion inspiration from Malia, who looked casual chic at the Great Wall in a cream sweater and tapered black pants.

In fact, Malia's travel wardrobe has been looking a lot more interesting than her mother's.

She arrived in Beijing in an unusual combination of silver and black striped skater skirt and brown long-sleeved top.

At Beijing Normal School and for a tour of the Forbidden City, she channelled prep school chic in a short-sleeved furry knit top with a pleated navy blue skirt, paired with knee high socks and flats.

For dinner that night, she wore a stylish short-sleeved floral dress that gave the illusion of a crop top and skirt combo. The dress from Topshop is currently out of stock.

Perhaps Malia should be the one to watch on this trip.

Day 3

At the Stanford Center at Peking University in Beijing

Mrs Obama wore a rather distracting dress to deliver a speech at the Stanford Center and take part in a virtual discussion with American youth through the Internet. The cut and fabric of the dress are nice, but I just can't get over that awful abstract print.

This is the second dress that she's worn on this trip that makes a bold, but not very stylish, statement down the front - she arrived in Beijing in an odd looking, colour-blocked Derek Lam.

Later in the day, she changed into a more casual outfit to watch a performance of the Beijing Opera at the Summer Palace in Beijing. It was a bizarre choice of a top, printed with a unicorn. Perhaps her daughter Sasha, 12, had picked it out for her. After all, Sasha wore a unicorn sweater from Asos last year to a basketball game, and it reportedly sold out almost immediately online. But the unicorn was not the most mind-boggling thing about Mrs Obama's outfit - she had on those horribly baggy black trousers again. This probably won't be the last we see of them on this trip, unfortunately.

Day 2

On a tour of the Forbidden City in Beijing 

This outfit by 3.1 Phillip Lim has got to be one of the worst Michelle Obama has ever worn in public. It looks like something an old man would wear to tai chi practice - loose sleeveless jacket, baggy shirt and even more baggy trousers. Even her mother's trousers were cut more stylish and flattering.

Perhaps Mrs Obama was thinking practical - after all, she did start off her day at the Beijing Normal School, where she tried her hand at calligraphy and played some table tennis, so she needed something loose and easy to move about in.

Peng Liyuan, on the other hand, looks smart and put-together in her double-breasted blue suit. Love the pops of red, from her blouse that peeks out from under her jacket, to her envelope clutch and her earrings. Her belt has also been artfully tied and her collar turned up just so. This is a woman who definitely pays attention to detail.

At the Diaoyutai State guest house in Beijing for dinner

For her first official dinner engagement in Beijing, Michelle Obama wore this lovely dress by Naeem Khan that resembles Chinese paper cut art.

However, she looks slightly underdressed next to Peng Liyuan, who looks more formal and elegant in a dark traditional Chinese jacket with floral trim and long skirt.

Still, Mrs Obama's dress gives her a certain fresh, youthful appeal - tons better than the drab outfit she wore in the day. 

Day 1

Touchdown in Beijing 


Michelle Obama touched down in Beijing in a colour-blocked Derek Lam dress from his fall 2013 collection. She had a bit of a 1970s vibe going on with the leather and suede patchwork dress, and her choice of thigh high boots.

Lam, of Chinese-American descent, is a favourite with the First Lady, and one expects her to wear more of him on this trip, perhaps along with her other favourite Asian-American designers such as Taiwanese-American Jason Wu and Nepalese-American Prabal Gurung. After all, this trip is all about "soft diplomacy".