For the auspicious occasion of the first presidential debate on Oct. 3, both Michelle Obama and Ann Romney did what thousands of women do every day: they shopped their closets and turned up wearing outfits they already owned and had worn before.
It’s a nice fashion nod to the realities of everyday life. Sometimes you just go with what you already have, particularly in today’s economy.
The First Lady wore a dress and matching cropped jacket by Preen, the London-based label of designers Justin Thornton and Thea Bregazzi. The two started with a Notting Hill shop in 1996, expanding until they began showing in London Fashion Week in 2001. Preen is known for its “modern Victorian look,” utilizing antique fabrics and vintage trims. Mrs. Obama’s dress is from their 2011 collection; the top part is a geometric print inspired by the Northern California Arts and Crafts Movement. The jacket features an inverted pleat back and bracelet-length sleeves. Mrs. Obama first wore the ensemble on a visit to London with the President in May 2011. She repeated the outfit, the next time pairing it with an up-do, when she visited the U.S. Department of Labor in January 2012.
Mrs. Romney sported a cream colored suit by Alfred Fiandaca, a Boston-based couture designer. We don’t know when Mrs. Romney last wore this suit, but, according to the designer, she has owned it since 2006. Many Americans first became aware of Fiandaca’s designs when seeing Mrs. Romney recently on "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno." For that occasion, she wore a highly detailed black lace and leather suit by the same designer.
Fiandaca has boutiques in Palm Beach and Boston, with an atelier in New York City. The cream suit featured a fitted, pieced jacket with a zip front and a matching skirt with a modified carwash hem—deliberate, regular slits in the hemline. This hemline appeared to feature top stitching around the bottom.
Both women spruced up their outfits in new ways. Mrs. Obama is staying true blue with her blue-gray nail polish (Vogue by Artistic Colour Gloss) that she wore at the Democrat National Convention. And Mrs. Romney had a new, slightly shorter haircut, with face-framing strands. They both had learned the fashion lesson of the moment: the smallest change in details can make everything seem fresh and promising again.