First lady of fashion: Michelle Obama's 20 best looks

United States First Lady Michelle Obama started a new chapter in power dressing in 2008, when her husband Barack Obama was elected as President and her love for fashion drew attention worldwide.

Shunning the safe skirt suit that was the preferred uniform of her predecessors, Mrs Obama has not only stepped out in vibrant dresses but has also dared to bare her arms.

On Nov 8, Americans will vote in a new president and first lady - or first gentleman. As Mrs Obama's eight years as her country's First Dresser draw to a close, Life catalogues 20 of her best looks.

1. First Lady in red

The gown she wore for her husband's second inauguration ball in 2013 is a fine example of her style.

The flowy dress by Taiwan-born, New York-based designer Jason Wu is bright red and has crisscross straps at the back, all the better to showcase her toned shoulders and arms.


US First Lady Michelle Obama during the Commander-in-Chief's Inaugural Ball on Inauguration Day on Jan 21, 2013. PHOTO: NYTIMES

2. Brit is it

At the state dinner for China in 2011, she served up drama in an asymmetrical red Alexander McQueen gown.

Her choice of the British brand was contentious as it was one of the few times she did not pay sartorial tribute to either the country being honoured or her own country.

But it was reported by Washington Post that the McQueen dress was just an instance of personal preference.


US President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama wait to greet Chinese President Hu Jintao before a state dinner at the White House in Washington, on Jan 19, 2011. PHOTO: NYTIMES

3. Reese's piece

Mrs Obama chooses her statement dresses carefully for political appearances - ensuring that each piece makes a visual impact, and is by a designer whose background reflects the message she wants to send.

Campaigning for her husband at the Democratic National Convention in 2012, she wore a rosy brocade dress by Tracy Reese, an African-American designer whose rise was an unlikely story in fashion. Reese, a supporter of Mr Obama, met Mrs Obama at a 2008 presidential campaign fund-raiser.


US First Lady Michelle Obama waves to supporters at the Time Warner Cable Arena in Charlotte, North Carolina, on Sept 4, 2012. PHOTO: AFP

4. Going blue for Democrats

Speaking up against Republican presidential nominee and one-time reality television star Donald Trump at the Democratic National Convention this year, Mrs Obama chose a royal blue dress by Christian Siriano, a designer who rose to stardom after taking part in the TV show Project Runway.

Unlike Mr Trump, whose inappropriate treatment of women has become a focus of media attention, Siriano was in the news for being inclusive and dressing diverse body types.

He volunteered to dress Ghostbusters actress Leslie Jones for a movie premiere after she complained on Twitter that no designer would.


US First Lady Michelle Obama waves to delegates during the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on July 25, 2016. 

5. to 7.  Gorgeous in Khan creations

Indian-American designer Naeem Khan has been Mrs Obama's go-to guy for glamour since 2009, when she sparkled in a champagne and silver column gown by him at the state dinner for India.

He also created the colourful strapless dress she wore to the White House Correspondents' Association dinner in 2012, and the art deco beaded gown that was beamed all over the world in 2013, when she announced the Best Picture Oscar winner (Argo) via satellite from the White House.


US President Barack Obama (right) and First Lady Michelle Obama (second from left) welcome Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of India and his wife, Gursharan Kaur, to the White House on Nov 24, 2009. PHOTO: NYTIMES


Television host Jimmy Kimmel (left) alongside First Lady Michelle Obama during the White House Correspondents Association Dinner in Washington, DC on April 28, 2012. PHOTO: AFP


US First Lady Michelle Obama announces the Best Picture Oscar for Argo live from the Diplomatic Room of the White House on Feb 24, 2013. PHOTO: AFP

8. to 10. Dressed for dinner

In black-tie finery, Mrs Obama outshines many a Hollywood star. She was gorgeous in a white Tom Ford gown and gloves at a 2011 state dinner in Buckingham Palace; in a green Marchesa at the Kennedy Center Honours 2013; and in a black Vera Wang at a 2015 state dinner for China .


US President Barack Obama (left) poses with US First Lady Michelle Obama in the Music Room of Buckingham Palace ahead of a State Banquet on May 24, 2011. PHOTO: AFP


US President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama arrive for a reception at the White House for the 2013 Kennedy Center Honorees on Dec 8, 2013. PHOTO: EPA


President Barack Obama (right) and First Lady Michelle Obama (second from left) pose for a formal photo with Chinese President Xi Jinping (second from right) and Madame Peng Liyuan (left) prior to a State Dinner in their honor in front of the Grand Staircase of the White House in Washington, DC on Sept 25, 2015. PHOTO: EPA

11. & 12. Casual and classy

For everyday business, Mrs Obama is fond of cardigans and belts, which accentuate the waistline of the former lawyer's feminine dresses and skirts.

For a speech in a school in Miami Lakes, Florida in 2012, she accessorised a Chris Benz sheath dress with a skinny belt.

For a visit to the Royal Opera House in London in 2009, she jazzed up a Jason Wu cocktail dress with a quirky patchwork Junya Watanabe cardigan.


First Lady Michelle Obama holds an Obama/Biden campaign event with Grassroots Supporters in Miami Lakes, Florida on July 12, 2012. PHOTO: CORBIS VIA GETTY IMAGES


US First Lady Michelle Obama (left) posing with Sarah Brown, wife of then-British Prime Minister Gordon Brown at the Royal Opera House in London on April 2, 2009. PHOTO: AFP

13. to 15. Floral fashion displays

Sometimes, Mrs Obama says it with flowers.

In August, to greet her Singaporean guests, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his wife Ho Ching, Mrs Obama chose a yellow Naeem Khan lace dress evoking sunshine and sunflowers.

For the US presidential visit to Cuba in March, the state dinner was held at the tree-lined Palace of the Revolution. Fittingly, Mrs Obama chose a Naeem Khan dress embroidered with a floral motif.

In 2010, she landed in style in Mexico City, in a blue Tracy Reese floral dress.


US First Lady Michelle Obama (right) and Mrs. Lee Hsien Loong (centre) greet Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong during an official arrival ceremony at the White House in Washington. PHOTO: REUTERS


Cuba's President Raul Castro (second from left), first lady Michelle Obama (centre) and President Barack Obama arrive for a state dinner at the Revolutionary Palace, in Havana, Cuba, March 21, 2016. PHOTO: NYTIMES


US First Lady Michelle Obama arrives in Mexico City, Mexico, on April 13, 2010. PHOTO: EPA

16. Repeat in resplendence

Mrs Obama keeps it real and repeats outfits. One of her most winning ones - which she wore to the London Olympics in 2012 and to the taping of the 2013 TV special Christmas In Washington - consists of a sculptural J. Mendel crepe jacket and a soft chiffon skirt.


US President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama (right), along with daughters Malia (left) and Sasha (second from left) sing during the finale of TNT's "Christmas in Washington" program that benefits the Children's National Health System, in Washington on Dec 15, 2013. PHOTO: EPA

17. Browne for the big day

For her husband's second inauguration, she wore a to-die-for Thom Browne coat in navy silk jacquard.


US President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama take part in the inaugural parade from the Capitol Building to the White House during Inauguration Day, in Washington on Jan 21, 2013. PHOTO: NYTIMES

18. Rocking it out in Posen

She exuded classy sex appeal in the Zac Posen corset dress she wore to the Black Girls Rock! awards ceremony last year.


Michelle Obama speaks onstage during Black Girls Rock! 2015 at NJ Performing Arts Center on March 28, 2015. PHOTO: WIREIMAGE

19. State of the skirt suit

At her husband's State of the Union address last year, Mrs Obama wore a skirt suit, for once. She looked good in the Michael Kors outfit in understated grey tweed, but with exaggerated shoulders and a sexy zip front.


First Lady Michelle Obama wearing a skirt suit by Michael Kors at her husband's State of the Union address, in the House chamber at the Capitol, in Washington on Jan 20, 2015. PHOTO: NYTIMES

20. Strong and spectacular finish

At the Obamas' last state dinner, which was held for Italy on Oct 18, Mrs Obama rocked a spectacular Atelier Versace gown in slinky rose gold chain mail.

Her choice, according to The New York Times, "spoke of armour and female strength, of the need to gird yourself to fight for what you believe in". She was also every inch a diva, wrapping up her eight years in the fashion spotlight on a high note.


US First Lady Michelle Obama poses for a photo as she welcomes the wife of Italian Prime Minister, Agnese Landini, on the North Portico of the White House before a state dinner in Washington, DC on Oct 18, 2016. PHOTO: AFP