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Obama debuts on Vanity Fair Best-Dressed List

Political heavyweights give show-biz glitterati a run for their money on Vanity Fair’s 2009 International Best-Dressed List. President Barack Obama made the cut for the first time, first lady Michelle Obama for the third in a row — but Angelina Jolie dropped off the list.
/ Source: TODAY contributor

Make some room, Brad and Angelina — heads of state are now elbowing out Hollywood glitterati as cutting-edge fashion plates.

Barack and Michelle Obama look as good in the White House as movie stars do on the red carpet, which put them both on Vanity Fair’s coveted International Best-Dressed List, announced Tuesday on TODAY.

President Obama finds himself in heady company among the sartorial splendor of Brad Pitt, Anne Hathaway, TODAY’s Tiki Barber ... and his own wife Michelle, who made the list for the third year in a row. She was accompanied on the list by her French counterpart, Carla Bruni-Sarkozy.

‘The world is watching’Vanity Fair’s Amy Fine Collins told Meredith Vieira the first ladies of the U.S. and France share some common characteristics: “They are both young, in their 40s; tall, good-looking, and the world is watching,” she said. But while Bruni-Sarkozy was a supermodel before rising to political prominence, it’s Michelle Obama who would win any popularity contest.

In the best-dressed voting, which takes in ballots from some 2,000 fashion movers and shakers, Michelle “got more votes than any other person this year or any year — she’s that popular,” Collins told Vieira.

“She has brought back the dress, she has turned the planet into her runway without even meaning to,” Collins said. “She loves showing her arms and her legs, which is a bit refreshing.”

Michelle Obama often finds her wardrobe as much talked about as her husband’s domestic and foreign policies in mixing off-the-rack J. Crew fashion with prestigious designer labels. And that, Collins says, is her secret: “She goes high, she goes low. She’s very interested in American designers, but she’s not provincial. She has a good sense of color and pattern. It’s a strong, consistent and distinctive look.”

But while Michelle may be a no-brainer, her husband’s being named to a best-dressed list might be considered an upset of sorts. Just last month, Obama was chided for wearing well-worn, high-waisted jeans in throwing out the first pitch at the major league baseball All-Star Game, to which he nonchalantly replied, “I’m a bit frumpy.”

But it was that devil-may-care fashion attitude that placed him on the list, says Collins.

“He has such a natural ease and elegance,” Collins told Vieira. “He’s completely comfortable in his own skin. He is very much in the tradition of American classic dressers, but relaxed. You just watch the way he rolls up his sleeves and you can see how much he cares about the way he looks, but not too much.”

American actor Brad Pitt attends a photo call for the film 'Inglorious Basterds' during the 62nd International film festival in Cannes, southern France, Wednesday, May 20, 2009. (AP Photo/Lionel Cironneau)Lionel Cironneau / AP

And it’s Brad’s accessorizing that put him over the top. “He has found a lot of accessories men are imitating; the hats, the aviators, the scarves. He looks good and does good,” Collins said.

Joining Pitt on the best-dressed list for men was TODAY’s own Tiki Barber, who, having been named to the list three times, now qualifies for Vanity Fair’s Hall of Fame. While Vieira noted that Barber’s presence on the list may have bumped off his colleague Matt Lauer, who was on Vanity Fair’s 2008 list, Collins said Barber’s look never goes out of style.

“He’s polished, he’s so well-groomed and he’s beautifully accessorized,” Collins said. “He has a classic American look, but with a little more continental flair.”

Lovely A-list actresses Hathaway and Penelope Cruz both found themselves on Vanity Fair’s best-dressed list for the first time, but Collins says it was a long time in coming. She likened Hathaway to a throwback to classic screen actresses past.

“She is the embodiment of the glamorous nice girl,” Collins told Vieira. “She is beautiful and fresh, clean and young, and a little bit fragile in the tradition of Audrey Hepburn.”

Spanish actress Penelope Cruz departs after the screening of the film 'Los Abrazos Rotos' (Broken Embraces) during the 62nd International film festival in Cannes, southern France, Tuesday, May 19, 2009. (AP Photo/Lionel Cironneau)Lionel Cironneau / AP

For Spaniard Cruz, Collins says she’s an example of a woman who knows what she’s got and knows how to show it off. “She has a beautiful body and she knows how to showcase it in the best clothes without any vulgarity at all.”

Vanity Fair has been awarding its best-dressed list since 1939, but added a new wrinkle this year. Along with polling fashion insiders and professionals, the magazine opened up voting to its readers, allowing them to cast their votes online. Collins said the votes were taken into consideration, although four editors at Vanity Fair, including editor-in-chief Graydon Carter, made the final decision.

“It’s a democratic process; we’re the Electoral College,” she said.

Vanity Fair’s 70th annual International Best-Dressed List is below in full:INTERNATIONAL BEST-DRESSED LIST: WOMENCHIARA CLEMENTE, filmmakerPENÉLOPE CRUZ, actressKATHY FRESTON, writerAGNES GUND, president emerita of MoMAANNE HATHAWAY, actressALICIA KEYS, singer, songwriter, actressH.R.H. PRINCESS LETIZIA OF ASTURIASKELLY RIPA, co-host of Live! with Regis and Kelly
H.H. SHEIKHA MOZAH OF QATAR, wife of H.H. the Emir of Qatar Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, UNESCO special envoy for basic and higher educationLIZZIE TISCH, private bankerINTERNATIONAL BEST-DRESSED LIST: MENTIKI BARBER, NBC correspondent, founder of Tiki VenturesARPAD BUSSON, financierDANIEL CRAIG, actorMATTEO MARZOTTO, entrepreneur, chairman to ENIT (the Italian state tourist board)BARACK OBAMA, president of the United StatesOGDEN PHIPPS II, private-equity investorBRAD PITT, actorROO ROGERS, environmental entrepreneur, co-founder of OZOlabALEJANDRO SANTO DOMINGO, investorCY TWOMBLY, artistHALL OF FAMELILIANE BETTENCOURT, principal shareholder of L’OréalCOUNT MANFREDI DELLA GHERARDESCA, art adviser, curatorCATHERINE DENEUVE, actress and modelLAPO ELKANN, creative entrepreneur; founder and president, Italia Independent and Independent Ideas; founding partner and owner, LA HoldingRENÉE ZELLWEGER, actressFIRST LADIESCARLA BRUNI-SARKOZY, singer and First Lady of FranceMICHELLE OBAMA, First Lady of the United StatesFASHION PROFESSIONALSGEORGINA CHAPMAN, co-founder and designer, MarchesaTORY BURCH, designerMATHILDE MEYER-AGOSTINELLI, director of communications, Prada FranceDAVID LAUREN, senior vice president, advertising, marketing, and communications,Polo Ralph LaurenCANDY PRATTS PRICE, executive fashion director, Style.comRACHEL ROY, designerSTACEY BENDET, designer and founder, Alice & OliviaFRANCA SOZZANI, editor in chief, Italian Vogue and L’Uomo Vogue
ALI HEWSON, co-founder, Edun fashion label and Nude skin careSIBLINGSJANE LAUDER, general manager, Origins, and AERIN LAUDER, senior vice presidentand creative director, Estée LauderSTAVROS NIARCHOS and EUGÉNIE NIARCHOS, jewelry designer for Gaia RepossiCOUPLESPALOMA CUEVAS, jewelry designer for Yanes, and ENRIQUE PONCE, professionalbullfighterDIANA TAYLOR, managing director, Wolfensohn & Co., and MICHAEL BLOOMBERG,mayor of New York City; founder, Bloomberg L.P.NATALIA VODIANOVA, fashion model, and JUSTIN PORTMAN, artistSHELLEY WANGER, editor, Knopf and Pantheon, and DAVID MORTIMER,president, the American AssemblyFASHION ORIGINALSPETER BEARD, “escapist”DUCHESS OF ALBANICKY HASLAM, interior designerIKÉ UDÉ, artist, founder of Arude magazineBRUCE WEBER, photographer, artist, filmmaker