Local stylemakers share their visions for Michelle Obama’s inaugural look

Posted by Susan Langenhennig, fashion writer, The Times-Picayune January 18, 2009 5:00AM
Categories: Living: Fashion

Local couturier Harold Clarke said he’d love to see Michelle Obama in something that’s out of the box. He envisions a cobalt blue, one-shoulder gown with embroidery and a bit of sparkle. Nobody does black tie and ball gowns better than New Orleans, so we asked three local tastemakers how they would style the president-elect’s wife for Tuesday’s inaugural festivities. Here’s how they envision the belle of the balls.

Harold Clarke

Clarke, a couturier with studios in the French Quarter and downtown Covington, knows a thing or two about dressing a high-profile political spouse. He created Michelle Miller Morial’s bridal gown for her wedding to former New Orleans Mayor Marc Morial.

Morial’s wedding dress was unexpected, with floral appliques in soft pastel colors.

“When I was working with her, I explained that her dress would reflect Louisiana,” he said. “It needed to have class and style that reflects the arts and culture of the city. We decided she should go with colors instead of stark white.

“That’s the same way I’m seeing Michelle Obama. She needs something that’s out of the box, that she will be remembered in.”

Clarke describes Obama’s style as “understated elegance.” For the inaugural balls, “she should look very glamorous. She’s a young first lady, and she should show herself. And we need a little glamour to pick us up these days. I’d put her in a fabulous gown, a little of the 1800s and a little bit of today.”

He envisions a cobalt blue, one-shoulder gown with embroidery and a bit of sparkle. “The one-shoulder design is youthful,” he said.

While Obama hasn’t rung up his atelier — yet — Clarke still will be represented at the inaugural festivities. He designed dresses for seven women attending the balls Tuesday night in Washington. Some of his clients are in Obama’s inner circle, though it would be inappropriate to name names, he said.

As for their dresses, all he would say is, “They’re fabulous — very high fashion.”

Suzanne Perron

Perron designs exquisite bridal, debutante and, most recently, couture Carnival queen gowns from her studio on Magazine Street.

For such once-in-a-lifetime moments, she said, “Women don’t want to be fashion forward. They want to be fashionable and somewhat timeless. And that’s how I see Michelle Obama for the inauguration.

Designer Suzanne Perron pictures Michelle Obama in a jewel tone blue because it’s patriotic and it would be really beautiful on her skin.”I want to see her in something that has a lot of movement. They’re going to be dancing all night,” said the designer, who worked for more than a decade in the New York studios of Carolina Herrera, Anna Sui and Vera Wang.

For the inaugural balls, Perron envisions Obama in a gown of satin and tulle.

“The satin conveys a strength and confidence, and the tulle softens it,” she said.

Perron studied images of Obama to try to come up with a dress that fits her style. She picked a jewel tone blue, because it’s patriotic and “it would be really beautiful on her skin.

“What you wear communicates so much. Michelle Obama has a chic, elegant, sophisticated style,” Perron said. “She presents such a polished, yet youthful, look, and so should her dress.”

Brandy Gomez-Duplessis
Gomez-Duplessis, a New Orleans makeup artist, spent last Sunday backstage at the Golden Globes in Los Angeles, touching up the faces of some of Hollywood’s most shining stars.

This week, she flies off to Utah to work behind the scenes at the Sundance Film Festival.

Needless to say, Gomez-Duplessis knows what it takes to make a face look good on camera.

“I’ve wanted to do Michelle Obama’s makeup for a long time,” said the makeup artist, who works with brides and local folks at her Magazine Street studio when she’s not attending to her celebrity clientele.

Obama “goes very light and simple with her makeup during the day. She doesn’t want to depend on makeup and be critiqued on it,” Gomez-Duplessis said. “But when she does get really dressed up, she needs a wow factor.”

For the inauguration, Obama should accent her eyes and go for a sheer gloss on her lips.

“I’d do a lip stain that’s long-wearing, since she’s going to be doing a lot of talking and greeting people,” Gomez-Duplessis said.

For the eyes, “I’d fill in her brows, make them fuller. And I would do natural-looking faux lashes by Shu Uemura in brown.”

Obama’s smooth complexion is one of her best assets. “She has amazing skin, very even. You don’t see a lot of women with such even skin,” Gomez-Duplessis said. “On her cheeks, I’d give her a little pink to brighten her up.”

The key with makeup on such a high-profile night, Gomez-Duplessis said, is to play up her features, but not take it over the top.

“Michelle Obama is soft and elegant looking,” she said. “That’s her style.”

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2 Replies to “Local stylemakers share their visions for Michelle Obama’s inaugural look”

  1. i am proud of you, please leave new orleans. if you were in another city do you know how much easier it would be.

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