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By
AFP
Published
Apr 3, 2009
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Classical Carla, daring Michelle: to each her style

By
AFP
Published
Apr 3, 2009

PARIS, April 3, 2009 (AFP) - The world's two most glamorous first ladies met Friday on the sidelines of the NATO summit, giving observers an insight into their very different approaches to style.


Michelle Obama and Carla Bruni-Sarkozy before lunch at the NATO summit in Strasbourg (Photo by: AFP/POOL/Ho)

For the new occupant of the White House, Michelle Obama, a touch of boldness. For the Elysee Palace's Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, wife of the French president, a more classical style. Or so fashion experts in Paris say.

After several years marked by a lack of glamour, the two women had refocused attention on style in the world of politics, Vincent Gregoire, director of creation at the Nelly Rodi trend forecasting agency, told AFP.

They shared another point in common, said Florence Mueller, who teaches at the French Fashion Institute: "The ability to dress in very simple things."

"Carla Bruni can be in jeans, a pullover with a scarf, (and) adopt an extremely simple style with which a lot of women can identify," she said.

Michelle Obama "has herself claimed her ability to dress in very widely sold brands such as J.Crew and Gap," Mueller added.

This was a new development for first ladies, said Mueller: " a very strong message." They showed that you could be elegant on a modest budget.

"The difference will be in the clothes they wear on formal occasions," she added.

Former model Bruni-Sarkozy, 41, goes for French designers, in particular Dior said Mueller: a commitment to French luxury group (LVMH), "to support its interests and development," Mueller said.

For Gregoire, she "has a very French approach to fashion, which is to promote rather upmarket creations."

With lawyer Obama "it is completely different," Gregoire added.

"She never wears the big names or 'vintage' clothes," preferring "to promote an American creativity, an orginality born of diversity."

Obama supports "independent designers with whom she falls in love," Mueller noted.

Isabel Toledo, the US designer of Cuban origin, who designed the pale gold sheath dress and coat Obama wore to her husband's inauguration, "has been fighting for 25 years, not to survive, but almost, in the American commercial world."

Bruni-Sarkozy, for her part, was recently seen in a dress by Alexis Mabille, a rising star in the world of French fashion.

Both first ladies adopted a low profile, said Gregoire.

For Mueller, Obama had found the "exact balance between respect for her status" and creativity.

Bruni-Sarkozy was trying to adopt a more modest image.

But that sometimes meant she ended up looking like an air hostess, said Gregoire, referring to the grey outfits she likes to wear, such as that in Strasbourg on Friday.

"As she has a figure to wear exceptional clothes, when she dresses relatively discreetly and simply, she soon looks a bit like a classic granny. She takes no risks."

Obama's approach was more simple, somewhere between a fashionable housewife and mother of a family, who knows what does and does not suit her, said Gregoire.

But "she is a bit more daring, even if it means getting it wrong," he added.

"We are still waiting for Carla let herself go."
By Dominique Schroeder

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