Michelle Obama chose a red Alexander McQueen gown with black details for the state dinner she and President Barack Obama were hosting Wednesday night in honor of Chinese President Hu Jintao.
The gown seemed typical of Mrs. Obama's atypical first-lady fashion sense: The gown featured an asymmetrical neckline and a petal-print silk organza fabric, and she wore a narrow wrap around her arms as she posed for photos in front of the White House.
The Alexander McQueen label is one of the most respected in style circles. McQueen committed suicide a year ago, but the brand has continued under the stewardship of his former assistant Sarah Burton, who, like McQueen, is a Londoner who shows her collections in Paris.
"This dress is very glamorous," said Kate Betts, author of the new book "Everyday Icon: Michelle Obama and the Power of Style."
"Red is an obvious color because in the Chinese color it means good luck, but you expect an American or an American-based designer for an occasion like this," said Betts, also a contributing editor at Time magazine. "But she's always surprising, and that's why we're all riveted by her."
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The choice of McQueen further adds to Mrs. Obama's fashion credibility, said Betts. She's known as a champion of up-and-coming talent, but also mixes and matches top designers with mass retail brands.
Fashion was further represented at the evening's A-list event with designer Vera Wang and Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour both on the guest list.
Earlier, Mrs. Obama wore a fairly dressy look for her daytime schedule, which included the official welcome to President Hu to Washington.
Her navy ensemble, which included a wool coat and wool-and-duchesse-satin dress, were embellished with silver beads. The outfit was designed by London-based designer Roksanda Ilincic.
"She likes glamour on these very public days," says Betts. "That's a strong, optimistic message, and she helps set the tone. We don't want her to show up in a dowdy, old dress."