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The Herculean task of outfitting Olympians

Three Chicago fashion designers have been tapped to dress members of Chicago's Olympic delegation for outfits debuting at Friday's International Olympic Committee vote on the 2016 Summer Games. That delegation will include gold medalists as well as the Obamas and Oprah.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Fashion designer Maria Pinto has been a favorite of first lady Michelle Obama. President Barack Obama has worn suits from menswear maker Hart Schaffner Marx.

Both Chicago labels have been chosen to dress members of Chicago's Olympic delegation, along with tiemaker Lee Allison, for outfits debuting at this Friday's International Olympic Committee vote on the 2016 Summer Games.

Chicago is in a tight race for the bid with Madrid, Rio de Janeiro and Tokyo. Chicago 2016 officials say it's customary for members of a city's delegation to wear the official wardrobe "to signify teamwork and cohesion."

Details of the apparel have been scarce — Chicago 2016 officials say the designs are to be unveiled Friday at the vote — but Allison described the clothing as an integrated, sporty but professional look for the men, with a more feminine silhouette for the women.

"The whole goal was to project an air of confidence and competence," Allison said. "In a sense the ties, they're very discreet. They say we're a professional team and we're here to get the job done."

Classic, tailored looks expectedThe president and first lady will lead the Chicago delegation along with Oprah Winfrey, Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn and Mayor Richard Daley. Fourteen Olympic and two Paralympic gold medalists, including Michael Johnson, Nadia Comaneci, Jackie Joyner-Kersee and Nastia Liukin, made the trip to Denmark.

Chicago fashion experts say they expect a classic, tailored look.

"The clothes are going to be on the conservative side, which lends itself to some of the philosophy of Chicago," Chicago fashion commentator and image consultant Barbara Glass said. "We're not a flashy city."

Glass said she also expects lots of red, white and blue.

Allison said the fact that all local designers were chosen is a sign the city is ready to host the world. "It's like a coming-out party for the town in all aspects, including its fashion industry," he said. "They can outfit this team and they don't have to leave the hometown."

Kristen Amato, president of the Chicago Fashion Foundation, said the selection demonstrates a certain caliber of work within the city's small-but-strong style community.

"This gives a lot of credibility to Chicago," said Amato, who designs her own jewelry line, K. Amato.

Amato said she expects Pinto to design for many different female body types.

"They've got to be able to speak to masses of people," Amato said. "They'll see a very polished, classic American style. I don't think we're in for any huge fashion surprises or shocks."

'Chicago on an international stage'Mrs. Obama has worn Maria Pinto designs to important events in her husband's political career, including the day he announced his candidacy in Springfield and the night she spoke at the Democratic National Convention.

Chicago 2016 said in a news release that the designers donated their time and will provide the clothing to the delegation at cost.

"On October 2, Chicago will be on an international stage, and our city's fashion designers will share in the spotlight," Chicago 2016 chairman Patrick Ryan said. "Our bid plan celebrates Chicago and we are proud to showcase the talents of the art and design community that thrives here."

Allison will offer one hint: The ties, he said, contain a hidden message.

"I can't tell you what it is," he said. "But it's an inspirational, aspirational thing there for the delegation."