(1) Obama combines simple with sparkle and looks professional. / Leon Neal/Pool/EPA/Corbis
(2) She goes casual chic while hula hooping. / Win McNamee, Getty Images
(3) She favors bold colors that exude confidence. / Chip Somodevilla, Getty Images
She shows off in colorful prints. / Steve Jelber, AP
Obama's daytime inaugural outfit dresses it up with a lacey middle. / J. Scott Applewhite, AP
More than any other first lady since Jackie Kennedy, Michelle Obama has captured our attention with her sense of style.
That's exactly her point, says Kate Betts, veteran fashion journalist and author of the book Everyday Icon: Michelle Obama and the Power of Style.
"Style is often seen as frivolous, irrelevant, but it is what people notice and she uses it brilliantly," Betts says. "Once the first lady had our attention, she could get people to focus on her healthy eating campaign."
Here, Betts explains how to incorporate some of the first lady's style into our own everyday lives.
1. In the office:
Obama has made it an option to ditch the pantsuit and replace it with a cardigan over a dress, skirt or pants. "For so long, women have felt so conflicted about whether they can actually be themselves, be feminine in the workplace or whether they have to dress like men," Betts says. " think she's given women a license to wear things that are more feminine. She's a great role model in that way."
2. Weekend barbecue:
When Obama hosted her Healthy Kids Fair, she did some double Dutch and hula hooping on the South Lawn while still looking elegant in cropped pants, dressy blouse and belted cardigan. "Everybody has a pair of black pants," Betts says. Pairing it with the blouse, belt and cardigan gives a "dressy element to it, a feel-good, what I like to call the pick-me-up piece, which means you're not just wearing a T-shirt, feeling shlubby; she's a little bit dressed up. It's sophisticated and easy to do."
3. Job interview:
It's also easy to blend in and not make a statement with your appearance. That's fine, but it doesn't show your best side. "Make a power statement with color that states 'I'm here, I'm in charge now,' " Betts says, as Obama did when she hit the presidential campaign trail before she became first lady. You also can incorporate color with a bright cardigan over a black or brown dress. The bigger message is to show your self-pride and project it onto the world. Why not put your best foot forward?
4. Out to dinner:
Obama often wears funky prints, edgy designs on her cardigans, blouses and even dresses. But not everyone can pull it off. "She has incredible physical confidence, great posture, working out every morning at 4:30. She feels good in her body and she shows that off," Betts says. Still, take a cue by flourishes like a printed blouse with a solid cardigan over it and solid skirt or pants. Or wear a printed cardigan over a solid blouse. "You don't have to wear a whole dress the way she does."
5. Daytime special occasion:
A touch of sparkle or lace adds pizazz. During the daytime inauguration festivities, Obama combined simple with a dash of special. Her modern camel sheath and matching coat sported lacey detail. During the parade, her lemongrass coat and dress could have been dowdy, says Betts. Instead, it was woven with silk, "a very pretty way to lighten that up."
6. On the road:
Women who travel for work could learn from Obama, who rarely wears the so-called "uniform" of a black pantsuit. "She shows a lot of different ways to look good," Betts says. She has obviously done wonders for the sleeveless dress. Put an Obama-style signature cardigan over it. And a black sleeveless dress can also be a cocktail dress if you have an event at night.
7. Date night:
"If you've got it, flaunt it," Betts says. When Obama showed up at the president's first address to Congress in a sleeveless dress, "people were freaked out about it," she recalls. "It's not the bare arms that freaked people out, it's how toned, sculpted, strong her arms are." At any age, if you have beautiful toned legs, wear a shorter skirt. Go for it. "It's dictated by how fit you are and how comfortable you feel."