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Image: Obamas with Indian prime minister and wife
Nicholas Kamm  /  AFP - Getty Images
First lady Michelle Obama, second from left, wore a sequined, cream-colored gown to Tuesday night's state dinner. President Barack Obama, right, wore a tuxedo. The Obamas' guests of honor were Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his wife, Gursharan Kaur.
TODAY staff and wire
updated 11/25/2009 7:26:41 PM ET 2009-11-26T00:26:41

Michelle Obama has dazzled the world with her graceful sense of style yet again.

The first lady chose to wear a gleaming silver-sequined, cream-colored gown Tuesday night to the first state dinner held by her husband's administration. She was tending to her hostess duties in a strapless silhouette with the beads forming an abstract floral pattern that was custom-made by Naeem Khan.

She wore a matching wrap, a stack of bangle bracelets on her wrist and dangling earrings.

The guests of honor at the dinner were Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his wife, Gursharan Kaur, making Mrs. Obama's choice of the Indian-born, U.S.-based designer seem very appropriate.

At the event, traditional evening gowns and vibrantly colored saris mixed with banded-collar dinner jackets and tuxedos. There also were turbans and bindis and diamonds aplenty, as several hundred guests put on the glitz.

Outshining them all was the first lady in her cream and gold silk chiffon gown.

Video: Obamas hold first state dinner Khan, the Indian-born designer of Mrs. Obama's handmade gown, told CNN's "Larry King Live" that it took three weeks to complete the dress at his family's workshop in India — with 40 people working on it.

His goals, he said, were to dress the first lady in something "Indian, chic, simple but very glamorous."

Careful wardrobe choices
Earlier on Tuesday for a preview of the state dinner, Mrs. Obama wore a skirt by Rachel Roy, also an Indian-American. "That gave us a preview that she was going to use clothes to convey a meaning," said Mary Tomer, author of the new book "Mrs. O: The Face of Fashion Democracy."

"They were really thoughtful choices," she said.

"The nice thing about it is the Jackie Kennedy sort of appropriateness. Most people wouldn't know one way or another about Naeem's background, but if one sentence gets mentioned to the prime minister, then her subtleness would pay off," added Hal Rubenstein, fashion director for InStyle magazine.

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Rubenstein said he was impressed that Mrs. Obama used her fashion knowledge to choose a sophisticated and regal style that paid homage to India without wearing a traditional sari-style dress, which could have come off as a costume next to India's first lady.

"I think she looks fabulous," Tomer said on Tuesday night. "She walked out in something that's figure-flattering and chic. Naeem's work is known for glamour and embellishment and this dress seems to embody that. She's sparkling and radiant."

60 years of White House state dinnersDesigner Khan is no stranger to helping women make a grand entrance; he has become a fixture on the Hollywood red-carpet circuit, dressing Beyonce, Carrie Underwood, Katherine Heigl and even Queen Noor of Jordan.

Of Mrs. Obama, Rubenstein said: "She looks like she's worth her weight in solid gold. What I love about her is that it's a pleasure to watch a woman of size and stature not apologize for her height and know how to stand tall."

President Barack Obama also drew Rubenstein's praise in his classic-style tuxedo. "I often feel Obama's suits are too big on him, but I think he got a new tux."

Focus on issues that matter to first lady
Hours before guests were to start arriving on Tuesday evening and in keeping with tradition, Mrs. Obama previewed the glamorous table settings in the State Dining Room. At that event, the first lady wore the skirt by Roy — her second wardrobe change of the day, to be followed still by the gown she was wearing to dinner.

In the morning, she wore a pumpkin-colored dress and matching overcoat tied at the waist and designed by Isaac Mizrahi, for the ceremonial welcome for Singh that the White House moved inside to the East Room, from the South Lawn, because of damp and chilly weather.

Image: Michelle Obama on day of state dinner
Mandel Ngan  /  AFP - Getty Images
First lady Michelle Obama sits with a group of young women from the White House mentoring program during a presentation on the history and protocol for official visits ahead of the first state dinner hosted by the Obamas.

All of Tuesday's events were expected to make a statement about the Obamas' sense of style — and also about issues that matter to Michelle Obama.

In a nod to one of the first lady's pet issues, Tuesday night's menu featured fresh, locally grown produce from the White House garden. Culinary offerings included potato and eggplant salad, arugula, red lentil soup and roasted potato dumplings or green curry prawns. Pumpkin pie tart and pear tatin were for dessert; the pears were poached in honey from the White House beehive.

The first lady also turned the preview event in the State Dining Room into a "teachable moment" for high schools girls participating in a White House mentoring program. They sat at two prepared tables as White House and State Department officials explained what state dinners are all about.

Afterward, Mrs. Obama sat at one of the tables and everyone dived in to dessert — the same fare being served guests at the state dinner.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Photos: Michelle Obama’s effortless style

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  1. Michelle Obama's effortless style

    The first lady looks as sophisticated in designer dresses as she does in outfits from J. Crew. Take a look at her great style:

    First lady Michelle Obama and her mother Marian Robinson visit with Chinese President Xi Jinping and his wife Peng Liyuan at the Diaoyutai State guest house on March 21, 2014 in Beijing, China. (Andy Wong / Pool via Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Ping-pong fun

    Michelle Obama plays table tennis at the Beijing Normal School, a school that prepares students to attend colleges overseas, in Beijing, China on March 21, 2014. (Andy Wong / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Welcome to China

    Michelle Obama waves as she and her daughter Sasha leave their plane at Capital International Airport in Beijing on March 20, 2014. (Alexander F. Yuan / Pool via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Green day

    Vice president Joe Biden, first lady Michelle Obama, and Irish Prime Mininster Enda Kenny's wife Fionnuala O'Kelly smile during a St. Patrick's Day reception in the East Room of the White House on March 14, 2014. (Ron Sachs / Pool / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. We're green with envy

    Kermit the Frog is welcomed by Michelle Obama at a screening of Disney's "Muppets Most Wanted" on March 12, 2014 in Washington, DC. (Win Mcnamee / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Seeking shades

    President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama make their way to board Air Force One before departing from Homestead Air Reserve Base in Homestead, Florida on March 9, 2014. (Mandel Ngan / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Pretty prints

    Michelle Obama delivers remarks during s workshop titled "I'm Every Woman: The History of Women in Soul" with (L-R) Grammy Museum Executive Director Robert Santelli, and music artists Melissa Etheridge, Janelle Monae and Patti LaBelle in the State Dining Room at the White House March 6, 2014 in Washington, DC. (Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Jump to it

    Michelle Obama sports a chic black jumpsuit during an interview with Jimmy Fallon on Feb. 20, 2014. (NBC; Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Pretty as a painting

    Michelle Obama, in a bold print skirt, is escorted by Rose Cameron, CEO and founder of WAT-AAH!, a line of bottled water targeted to kids and teens, as they view the "Taking Back the Streets" art exhibit at the New Museum in New York on Feb. 20. (Richard Drew / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Snow bunny

    Michelle Obama skis at Buttermilk Mountain in Aspen, Colo. on Feb. 15. This is the third year in a row that Michelle Obama has vacationed in Aspen over the long President's Day weekend. (Chris Council / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Ultimate elegance

    President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama, in a dramatic Carolina Herrera ball gown, arrive at a state dinner at the White House on Feb. 11. The dress featured a sheer black top with hand-embroidered and beaded appliques and sleeves that dipped just below the first lady's elbows. (Jewel Samad / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Lady in red

    First lady Michelle Obama, French President Francois Hollande, and President Barack Obama wave at the balcony of the White House on Feb. 11. (Alex Wong / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. Deep green

    Michelle Obama, in a hunter green Azzedine Alaïa dress, waves next to U.S. Army Ranger Sgt. First Class Cory Remsburg, who was injured while serving in Afghanistan, prior to President Barack Obama's State of the Union speech in Washington on Jan. 28, 2014. (Joshua Roberts / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. Vision in blue

    First Lady Michelle Obama smiles as she listens to President Barack Obama speak at an event on expanding college opportunity in the South Court Auditorium of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in Washington on Jan. 16, 2014. (Mandel Ngan / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. Bold bling

    Michelle Obama wore a festive lucite necklace while speaking about education in underserved communities in the State Dining Room following a screening of the movie "The Inevitable Defeat of Mister and Pete" at the White House on Jan. 15, 2014. (Saul Loeb / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
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