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Michelle Obama's stylist shares story behind former first lady's inauguration look

From head to toe, the former first lady’s look became one of the standout styles on Inauguration Day. Now her stylist is sharing what went into it.
Image: Joe Biden Sworn In As 46th President Of The United States At U.S. Capitol Inauguration Ceremony
Former President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama arrive at the U.S. Capitol for President Joe Biden's inauguration ceremony on Jan. 20, 2021. Jim Lo Scalzo / Getty Images
/ Source: TODAY

Inauguration Day gave many of the past and present notable names in Washington the opportunity to showcase their fashion sense — and as is often the case for such high-profile events, many of them had a team of helping hands to put together those eye-catching looks.

Now one stylist is pulling back the curtain on that process as she reveals how former first lady Michelle Obama came to have one of the standout styles of the day.

And what Meredith Koop is sharing could help anyone prepare for a big occasion.

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“I’ve trained to myself to try to think through every possible scenario,” Koop wrote in a post to Instagram featuring photos of Obama sporting her memorable merlot-colored ensemble. “I can’t even begin to tell you the thoughts that run through my head the night before something big.”

It goes far beyond formality or fashion trends. Things like weather, walking, sitting and transportation have to be considered when putting together the ideal look that also functions perfectly. According to Koop, she knew she’d nailed this particular outfit when Obama later told her, “I was so comfortable!”

“Literal music to my ears,” she said of Obama’s comment. “I can pack it up and go home. If my client is comfortable, she’s confident. She can show up and not be worried about her clothes or the height of her heel and STILL look fierce as hell. Beyond any symbolism I am thinking through or any fashion fantasies I may have, THAT is the essence of my professional relationship with Michelle.

"I have learned to respect her consistent sense of practicality and pragmatism (Capricorn) dressing her in pieces she can live, move and inspire in. I am honored that she trusts me to do what I do, to ideate and execute looks with freedom, to be creative and, yes, to use fashion to send a message and to give a platform to artists/designers.”

Koop, who served as Obama’s stylist throughout her White House years, then proceeded to break down the elements of the ensemble, which was made up of a set of separates from designer Sergio Hudson, that still has fashion fans buzzing.

“I knew from the jump I wanted pants for her,” she wrote in the caption of another post. “Pants, pants, pants. Ah, the liberation of pants! No skirts, no dresses. Practical beautiful pants. Dark colors. Jewel tones, black, grays. Nothing bright. Sleek, chic and modern. You can call it berry, wine, plum or burgundy. I’m calling it wineberry plum for the moment.”

But while many other women at Wednesday’s ceremony wore purple, which may or may not have been a symbolic choice, Koop made it clear that she wouldn’t call it that.

“What it wasn’t was bi-partisan purple,” she insisted. “That’s a cute story, but it wasn’t the intention.”

Regardless of the color, she said Hudson “blim blam killed it” with his design.

“I love the different textures in the coat, pants, sweater and belt of this monochromatic look. It was the perfect balance,” the stylist wrote, adding that she almost took the color even further. “I had gloves and shoes along with a mask dyed to match, but I decided last minute to do @christyrilling black silk textured mask and @stuartweitzman black suede boots with a block heel. It felt modern and more how women tend to dress.”

Despite how many people had a hand in the final look, ultimately, Koop said it was all about one person.

“What I want to convey most, though, is that this particular outfit is about the woman wearing it more than anything,” she said of Obama. “It is about her and what she means to you and to America. She is powerful and she needs to move. She is stunning and she represents what is possible. She is relatable and she is aspirational. She has consistently articulated over the years what has been in the hearts and minds of so many. She has taken a look at the rule book and turned the page. She leads, she inspires and she slays.”