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Michelle Obama makes $148 frock a fashion smash

The breezy black-and-white dress worn by Michelle Obama on “The View" has become an overnight sellout across the country. Its surprised but happy designer, Donna Ricco, said that Michelle Obama’s choice “speaks to what I’m doing every day.”
/ Source: TODAY contributor

Donna Ricco has been a successful fashion designer for a long time — but it took Michelle Obama to make her famous.

On Wednesday, the wife of Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama took a turn as co-host of TV talkfest “The View.” When the show’s audience saw her breezy, black-and-white, high-waisted print dress designed by Ricco, they had to have it. Virtually overnight, the dress all but sold out at the White House/Black Market boutiques that sell it for an affordable $148.

“I’m very happy. I’m very surprised. I had no idea she would be wearing this dress,” Ricco told TODAY’s Meredith Vieira Friday in New York. “But it’s sort of a natural happening for me, because I’ve been designing dresses a long time. We ship a lot of dresses to the stores, and I’m happy that Michelle chose this dress to wear on ‘The View.’ ”

“It must be rewarding for you,” Vieira told Ricco, who wore a satiny black dress — presumably of her own design — with a scoop neckline and rolled collar.

“It is,” the designer agreed. “I put a lot of time and effort into making these dresses fit a lot of American woman. I think to be able to go into the store, for Michelle to find the dress, try it on, love it, and to be able to just wear it, speaks to what I’m doing every day.”

White House/Black Market has lost no time in trumpeting itself as the source of Michelle Obama’s dress. On Friday, it’s Web site featured a picture of the sleeveless dress — it’s called a “tank leaf print dress” — with the headline, “Road to the White House Style,” and an underlined link advising shoppers to “buy this dress.” The site also notes that “Entertainment Tonight” did a piece on the suddenly famous frock.

Ricco’s own Web site hadn’t yet caught up with her sudden fame. On its home page is a model in a blue satin summer dress. A site page labeled “As seen in” includes a Vogue cover and references to E!, “Wheel of Fortune” (including a gallery featuring Vanna White in Donna Ricco designs) and Woman’s Day... but not “The View” or the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee’s stylish wife.

The designer confessed that she’s been so busy she hasn’t yet reached out to Michelle Obama.

“It’s definitely on my agenda to try to be in touch with her and see if she would like to come up to the showroom and find some more dresses,” she told Vieira.

Ricco offers the dress for $99 on her own Web site, but said that it’s flown off the racks so rapidly, shoppers may have difficulty finding them — although some are still out there “if they look very hard.”

She’s put in new orders for the dress. “We’re making more as fast as we can,” she assured TODAY viewers. “It will be back in the stores in September.”

Meanwhile, Ricco opined that Michelle Obama’s choice to wear dresses instead of slacks or suits is a wise one.

“A dress is a great choice for her to wear,” Ricco told Vieira. “No one else is wearing dresses in the campaign. I think it gives her kind of an edge. Women want to feel feminine; they want to look pretty. Wearing a dress, especially this one, is I think a very powerful image and it can help her stand out from the crowd.”

Ricco didn’t have to add that it’s helped her stand out from the crowd, as well.