Though the inaugural ball is held in celebration of the president taking or reclaiming the nation’s highest office, for the fashion world the night is all about the first lady and what she chooses to wear for the big night.
Four years ago, Michelle Obama’s dress choice turned an unknown designer into a fashion super star. With the debut of his white chiffon gown at the 2009 inaugural ball, Jason Wu immediately became a household name and those in the fashion circles knew to take note of the up-and-comer.
This time around, Michelle Obama dazzled the world in yet another Jason Wu creation: a show-stopping red halter-neck gown with velvet details.
Since the first lady’s dress choice is kept a secret until she steps out, the 15 designers who submit their pieces for consideration don’t know if their creation is the one that made it. So when Michelle Obama stepped out in his creation for a second time Wu was floored.
“I just couldn’t believe that she chose me [again] … I am so proud of it,” he said about the moment. “I was still at my studio designing the fall collection that I’m presenting in less than three weeks. So I was actually with my team, which was really nice.”
Proud is exactly the emotion the 30-year-old designer should feel. With only six years in the business, Wu has already made some big waves. He first debuted his collection in February of 2006. Since then, high-end retailers including Bergdorf Goodman, Saks Fifth Avenue, Neiman Marcus, Ikram, Nordstrom, Susan of Burlingame and Louis Boston have carried his lines.
His famous clienteles include names like Amber Valetta, Leighton Meester, Joy Bryant, Gretchen Mol, Kerry Washington and of course, First Lady Michelle Obama – whose first Inaugural gown is on display at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History in Washington.
So how does one go about designing a dress for such big names? Wu spoke to CBS news and explained the process of working on the Inaugural gowns. “Red was what came to my head right away … As a designer I always have to trust my instincts,” he says. “Last time, she didn’t [make suggestions], but this time I said, ‘I think red is a really good color’ and the [White House team] said, ‘Well, Mrs. Obama thinks red is a good color too.’”
Once that was set, the making and perfecting of the dress was a two month-long process Wu explains, but calls the experience “a wonderful process to […] put so much into a dress that is a part of history.”