Mobama: First Lady, national icon

The Metropolitan Museum of Art's Costume Institute in New York will re-open next week, with a new name: the Anna Wintour Costume Center.

The most interesting aspect for many, however, is who is cutting the ribbon at the opening ceremony: Michelle Obama, America's First Lady. How's that for a power play?

Support of the $284bn US fashion industry is, of course, part of the remit of the First Lady of the United States (or FLOTUS, as The West Wing has popularised). It always has been. "A newspaper reported that I spend $30,000 a year buying Paris clothes," stated Jacqueline Kennedy in 1960. "And that women hate me for it." It was less the amount and more the locale that inspired ire. Michelle Obama experienced a similar backlash when she sported a McQueen gown for an important state dinner.

Why? Because a FLOTUS wields enormous power. Mobama can make an American designer – a trait she shares with Anna Wintour. Her support of designers Jason Wu, Thakoon and Thom Browne's nascent womenswear line bumped them into a different league of recognition.

The focus on FLOTUS fashion is intense because she is the female embodiment of the American fashion industry. In one woman, Michelle Obama represents the entire royal family, rolling the roles of female head of state and fashion plate together as we've rarely seen. She's not just the First Lady – as far as American fashion is concerned, she's the only lady.

The big question? What is she going to wear come next Monday?

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