CHRISTIAN SIRIANO Reflects on Designing Michelle Obama’s DNC Dress

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Not only is Michelle Obama’s resounding speech from the Democratic National Convention make headlines, but so is the elegant Christian Siriano dress she wore to deliver it. The cobalt crepe silk piece was something of a departure for the former First Lady—and for political outfits in general. It was demurely simple on top, with cap sleeves and a fitted bodice, but dramatic and elegant from the waist down, ending in a full skirt that swished as the First Lady walked to the podium. Let’s just say in an evening of statement blazers and mid-shin pencil skirts, the touch of softness and movement was welcomed. We have Christian Siriano, the American designer and Project Runway alum, and CFDA member, to thank.

“It was about striking the balance with that dress,” the designer said over the phone on Tuesday morning. “I think the top made it feel powerful and the bottom made it feel soft and kind of romantic. My personal opinion is that it represents her personality, from what I see [having never met her]. She’s such a powerful woman and she is so strong, but she’s also one of the kindest people there is. That’s the balance of that dress: a simple silhouette that is still elegant and romantic and covered [up] in a different way. It was also different from what every other woman wore, which was also an interesting choice.”

Siriano explained that when the request came to dress Mrs. Obama, he chose not to over study pictures of her past fashion hits—of which there are multitudes—and instead try to craft his own vision of what the First Lady’s wardrobe could look like. To do so, he revisited his Pre-Fall 2016 collection, which featured colors and silhouettes that inspired the First Lady’s DNC look. “I’ve obviously seen things that she’s worn—you can’t not see them! —but I actually tried not to psych myself out,” he said with a laugh. “I just tried to make a great, beautiful dress.”

Recently, the Maryland-born designer has been garnering press for dressing comedian Leslie Jones for her Ghostbusters premiere after Jones posted on Twitter that she was being turned down by other designers. “My mission was always, ‘Let’s support everybody. You never know who a great customer is going to be,’ ” Siriano said. “Growing up, my mom was a size 16 to 18, so it was just normal to dress women of all sizes.” The designer said he hoped that his message

of acceptance—recent photos of Siriano’s wedding to musician Brad Walsh show women from Danielle Brooks to Christina Hendricks to Kelly Osbourne dancing with the designer—helped inform the First Lady’s choice to work with him. “I can only hope that’s why she chose to wear something and why she likes my clothes,” he said. “We feel the same way about people.”

The DNC dress marks the second time the First Lady has worn a dress by Siriano. Two weeks ago, she chose a black, full-skirted dress by the designer to attend the memorial for the five slain police officers in Dallas. “We made several other things for her, including the dress that she wore two weeks ago,” Siriano said, explaining that he created a series of options after being contacted by Mrs. Obama’s stylist, but did not know which events the dresses might be worn to. “If she calls, you make things and hope for the best,” he continued. “That’s exactly what this situation was, we really hoped for the best. We’ve had those red carpet nights where, you never know, people can walk out and be in something totally different.” The designer said he was watching the DNC on his DVR, slightly behind the live broadcast, when he received a text from his mother about Mrs. Obama wearing his dress. “My mom was the first person to tell me how amazing it was, and she said that she wanted it for herself, which is always nice,” he said with a laugh. “I love when my mom asks, ‘Can I place an order?”

Mrs. Siriano might have to wait. Though Siriano’s Pre-Fall collection that inspired the dress is in stores now, you won’t find FLOTUS’s dress on the racks—yet. “That dress doesn’t exist right now—maybe in five hours it will!—but we don’t have it to sell yet,” he said, adding that the commercial aspect of dressing a sitting First Lady wasn’t top of mind. “We weren’t really thinking about it that way. Obviously, I want people to want to buy my clothes, so hopefully that desire itself just grows. I think it comes down to awareness. If a customer is going into Neiman Marcus, sees my label, and she remembers this dress, it’s great to have that connection to Michelle Obama.”

As for what’s next, the odds are favorable that we’ll see Mrs. Obama in another of Siriano’s designs soon. The young designer has also set his sights on dressing another political woman. “I’m a big fan of Hillary. I think she could be an amazing president and would love to make something for her one day. That’s next in the cards!”




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