Thursday, January 22, 2009

Belle of the Ball

Michelle Obama’s fairytale gown for the inaugural balls was designed by the young (he’s only 26!) and up-and-coming Jason Wu. Jason Wu even has a Canadian connection, having moved to Vancouver at the age of nine, It was there that Wu began sewing, drafting patterns, and sketching. Wu, now based in New York, designed the chiffon Swarovski-crystal-adorned gown back in December. “I sent several sketches, but the one she picked, the white dress, was actually the very first one I drew.” Wu even delivered the gown personally to Chicago, sitting with it on his lap for the duration of the flight. “There was no way I was checking it in.”

"It's soft, feminine, but powerful; I wanted to convey all that in a dress," Wu told The Associated Press. "I wanted it to look like a sign of hope". Wu also told the Vancouver Sun that he wanted the dress to “embody Michelle Obama's youthful and exuberant style," adding that it was “an honour to dress her for the inaugural ball."

Just like Isabel Toledo, the designer of the inauguration dress, Wu was unaware that Michelle Obama was going to wear his gown to the inaugural balls. “I was just at home with some friends, having a pizza, watching television. Then the president’s wife came out and she was on the screen and it was my design and I just dropped everything. I remember saying, ‘that’s mine’. It was unbelievable. I was screaming, excited, jumping up and down...It was like a dream, except not a dream in a way because I could never have dreamed something like this would happen. I didn’t have any idea she was going to wear the dress.”

Wu has not personally met the First Lady, but Miss. Obama is very familiar with his designs. She was introduced to Wu by André Leon Talley, Vogue’s editor-at-large, who had been advising the First Family on their appearance. Michelle Obama had previously purchased four of Wu’s designs, which can run up to $6,000 each. One of those dresses was worn back in November 2008 for an interview with Barbara Walters. Michelle Obama is now being considered Wu’s ‘career launcher’ because of the attention that her wardrobe brings. Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour is also a huge fan and proponent of Wu. Wintour can often be seen at the front row of his fashion shows.

Wu’s inaugural ball gown is now part of fashion history and will be stored in the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History collection, along with other First Lady inaugural gowns.

Jason Wu’s designs are sold at U.S. stores such as Bergdorf Goodman and Neiman Marcus. Unfortunately, Wu’s designs are not yet available in Canada.

Writer: Kate Murphy

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