The game-day decision in this year's Super Bowl of fashion: a sunny lemon-grass-colored Isabel Toledo ensemble for Michelle Obama on inauguration morning.
A departure from the widely predicted jewel-tone variations on red or blue, Obama's choice nonetheless radiated optimism and warmth as she walked the steps to St. John's Episcopal Church in Washington, D.C.
"It was a classic choice and pitch-perfect for the occasion," said Nicole Phelps, executive editor of the online fashion bible, style.com. "But leave it to Mrs. Obama to mix it up a bit--did you see those teal green pumps?"
The day before, at the Kids' Inaugural concert, Obama hinted at the organic colors that were speaking to her. There, Obama evoked a summer sky in blue and yellow J. Crew, brightening her palette considerably after Sunday's strikingly elegant beige and black Narciso Rodriguez ensemble.
It's quite possible that Obama did not settle on what to wear until the wee hours. Obama's spokeswoman had said that fashion was not high on her list of priorities as her family changed residences three times in a matter of weeks.
Life & Style magazine quoted a friend of Toledo's as saying that she did not know whether Obama would wear her design. Though many had expected Obama to don hometown designer Maria Pinto for Inauguration Day, Toledo was no shocker.
Elevating Obama's status as a fashion sophisticate, Obama wore a Toledo black tunic and flaring pants, also purchased at Ikram, with a Tom Binns necklace at a Vogue event last June.
In a New York Daily News interview in October, Toledo, a Cuban-born American designer, said she had been contacted recently by Obama's representatives, but wouldn't spill specifics.
"I have sent her a lot of things to wear on the road," Toledo told the Daily News. The month before, Toledo received a Couture Council Award from the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology, her alma mater in New York. She has worked for more than 20 years under her own name and also served as creative director for the Anne Klein company. In addition to FIT, she studied at the Parsons School of Design in New York.
"There was talk of 1/8Obama 3/8 choosing a bigger-name designer, someone like a Ralph Lauren or an Oscar de la Renta," style.com's Phelps said. "Her choice of Isabel Toledo shows that she really stands behind the entrepreneurial on-the-rise American designer."
Even more effusive over the choice was Simon Doonan, creative director for Barneys New York.
"I am blowing a gasket with joy!" he e-mailed. "What an incredible way to recognize Isabel's genius! I am delirious that one of my oldest pals and one of Barneys' most important designers has been honored in this way."
Kicking up a little local controversy on inauguration morning was Jill Biden; there was some chatter on a Chicago radio station about her skirt being too short and, combined with the scarlet coat and tall boots, evoking a bit of a racy look. (Remember the headlines when Condoleezza Rice started wearing tall boots on state visits?)
At the swearing-in ceremony, the first daughters turned up in a softened patriotic color scheme, both in coats from J. Crew's kids' line, Crewcuts. Malia Obama, 10, wore a blue coat with black scarf and gloves and Sasha, 7, a pink coat with red scarf.
Michelle Obama added green gloves, and her coat, which reportedly was lined in pashmina for warmth, was pulled close around her with a velvet ribbon. Her daughters also belted their coats with ribbons in a unifying tie to their mother.
Laura Bush wore a suitably understated dove gray double-breasted jacket and matching skirt.
"1/8Laura Bush and Jill Biden 3/8 look very appropriate, but who cares!" Doonan said. "All eyes are on Michelle Obama."
Aside from a chapeau with a large bow on Aretha Franklin, who sang "My Country Tis of Thee" at the chilly swearing-in, hats were mostly absent on the leading ladies and men, even balding ones, to the disappointment of milliners everywhere. All in all, accessories were minimal, with Michelle Obama wearing small earrings rather than danglers--perhaps a sign of restraint in light of the recession.
Barack Obama wore a red tie and Bush a blue tie.
Still in suspense: Michelle Obama's inauguration ball attire. Latest rumor is that it will not be Pinto but a designer brokered through Ikram. Another American designer who reflects a classic immigrant story? Rodriguez? Thakoon?
Tons of celebrities were spotted in the crowd to watch the historical event. Take a look at the photo gallery for a look.