Mini fashion plates in red and black

Tribune reporter

Like mother, like daughters.

Ten-year-old Malia Obama's dress on Election Night is causing its own mini-fashion frenzy.

The $110 red silk taffeta dress by Biscotti Inc. was on the brink of selling out at specialty stores around the country even before Malia wore it, said a representative of the Oakland, Calif.-based high-end children's brand.

The morning after brought mayhem.

"The stores were all calling, 'We need more; we need more,' " said Judy Beall, marketing manager for Biscotti. "We had no idea she was going to wear it. It was purchased at Nordstrom without any encouragement from us."

Initially, Biscotti said no more could be made, even as it scrambled to find more fabric. By this week, it had succeeded. About 150 more of the bubble-skirted dresses will be turned around in about two weeks, in time for renewed holiday demand.

Biscotti at first wasn't sure the Election Night dress was its design because—as with many of her mother's garments—Malia's dress was tweaked. Under what we're guessing was parental guidance, a sparkly rhinestone belt was replaced by a more subdued choice and a cardigan was worn over the spaghetti straps.

"Malia happens to be tall for her age. She wears sizes typical of a 13-year-old," said David Shelist, owner of Madison and Friends children's clothing store at 43 E. Oak St., where some of the Obama girls' Election Night accessories, including opaque tights, were purchased. "That makes it a little more of a challenge to dress her looking her age. Whoever's dressing her is doing a fabulous job keeping her looking young."

On the Wall Street Journal Web site, a blog posting last week about the red dress had generated 25 pages of comments as of Wednesday morning. Some were critical: "So does this mean Obama is going to add an extra $110 tax credit to each child so we can buy them designer clothes that they will outgrow in a year?" Others supportive: "If a party for winning the presidency of the United States of America isn't an occasion to dress one's daughter in a fashionable dress, what is?"

Meantime, Gerson & Gerson Inc. also has sold out of its $72 little black dress, under the label Iris & Ivy, worn by 7-year-old Sasha Obama on Election Night. Buzz has been more modest; the dark dress was less attention-getting. Even so, for spring, Gerson & Gerson plans to retool the style and to name it: "Sasha."

A note: Several e-mails responding to a story about Michelle Obama's style in Wednesday's Live! section paper asked who foots the bill for the Obamas' clothing purchases. By all accounts, they pay for them out of personal finances, not campaign finances or other outside sources. "The Obamas pay for their own clothes," reaffirmed Katie McCormick Lelyveld, communications director for Michelle Obama, on Wednesday. Other questions? E-mail wdonahue@

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