Their husbands may be duking it out on the campaign trail, but First Lady Michelle Obama and Ann Romney—who would like to take over that title—aren’t sweating it when it comes to their fashion choices. Both women have mastered dressing for their body shapes—showing off their best assets as they try to convince voters to approve of their spouses best assets, too.
We spoke with style expert Jacqui Stafford, author of “The Wow Factor: Insider Style Secrets for Every Body and Every Budget,” about outfits worn by both women this year, why the clothes and accessories are flattering and what the rest of us can learn from their looks.
No matter your personal politics, there’s no debate these two are bringing in major style votes.
“Michelle Obama has a broader shoulder, a narrow waist and curvaceous hips, so she’s really a classic hourglass shape,” Stafford says, adding that she loved this Laura Smalls printed dress in eggplant worn by the first lady during the final night of the Democratic National Convention in September.
“This dress is actually perfect for her because it shows off her best body parts,” Stafford says. “She’s really making the most of her silhouette. She’s showing off the broad of the shoulder, she’s cinching the waist with the ruche of the dress, and then the skirt—a perfect knee-length—has a gentle flare without too much volume to it. She looks fabulous.”
Obama received widespread kudos for both the speech she gave at the Democratic National Convention in September, and her Tracy Reese dress paired with J.Crew pumps.
“I love that this dress has a narrow, almost halter-style neckline,” Stafford says. “This style works particularly well if you have good arms. If you don’t have good arms, I always advise my clients to keep away from dresses with a very high neckline because they can make your bust look bigger and really draw an emphasis to the arms. So, if you don’t have beautifully toned arms like Michelle, I would temper it a bit with a shrug or a cardigan.”
For a pre-convention sound check, Obama chose this Diane von Furstenberg printed Porsha dress with a V-neckline, which Stafford calls one of the most flattering necklines for most women.
“I also love that the top is broader, so if you have a larger bust, it’s going to be very easy to wear a supportive bra, which is very important,” she says. “Michelle keeps dresses to the knee, which also is a universally flattering length for women.”
4Puttin’ on the Glitz
For an appearance at Nickelodeon’s Kids’ Choice Awards in March, Obama went fashion-forward with Helmet Lang foil-wash jeans and a Wes Gordon houndstooth jacket. Keeping everything in the same color family, and rocking the skinny pant with a longer, flowing top, makes her look glamorous and lean.
“She’s hitting all the trends: the houndstooth, the pointy pump and the metallic jeans,” Stafford says. “What makes this work is the lack of jewelry. If you put jewelry on top of this, it could be too much and seem like you’re trying too hard.”
At an event at the Pentagon in February, Obama wore a figure-flattering Moschino frock and a simple cardigan in similar hues, creating “a great monochromatic line,” according to Stafford.
“Michelle has been instrumental in bringing back the cardigan, which is really one of the great basics in a woman’s wardrobe because it’s incredibly versatile,” Stafford says, adding that the sweater is a great piece for women of all shapes and sizes.
“You can wear it over a shirt, with one button so it looks a bit more conservative, as a top paired with a great skirt, or push the sleeves up to give it a great casualness.”
6Keeping it Casual
Stafford says Ann Romney is closer to a circle body shape—or a “cocktail ring shape.”
“She has less of a defined waistline,” the style expert says. “She’s slightly older, so that’s to be expected, but she dresses incredibly well for her body shape. And she doesn’t shy away from belts, which is very important.”
“A lot of women who don’t have a very slender waistline think they can’t wear them, but belts actually help create a waistline. She also does jewelry extremely well, using bold pieces, and she’s great with color.”
Romney looked lovely in a sky blue Oscar de la Renta dress paired with a matching cardigan during the final night of the Republican National Convention in August.
Stafford calls the belted, monochromatic look very flattering for someone with a wider waistline, but cautions that pleats can be tricky. “These pleats work because they are actually sewn down, but pleating tends to add volume where you don’t need it,” the style expert says. “On a fuller figure, pleats can sometimes add bulk.”
Romney wowed the fashion crowd with this red Oscar de la Renta dress worn during her RNC speech.
“She uses solid colors really well,” Stafford says. “Fabulous, bright colors look really great on her, and the three-quarter sleeve is very flattering. A lot of women over 40 have less than perfect arms, so this is a great solution. She’s also wearing a nice high collar, which creates one long, lean line. And, again, she’s belted it, so it gives her a little bit of a waistline.”
“I love what she’s done with this shirt,” Stafford says. “And her pearls look trendy and fashion forward.”
Stafford says you should always choose jewelry in proportion to your shape or size. “If you’re a dainty, tiny little thing, don’t pick massively huge jewelry—it will completely overwhelm you,” she says. “A perfect example is when the Olsen twins used to walk around with these massive bags that looked like they could live in them. Always keep your jewelry, handbags and other accessories in proportion to your frame.”
10Layer it On
A well-tailored suit, paired with a blouse and Romney’s signature chunky jewelry, gave polish to the mom-of-five-boys look as she stepped off a plane in New Hampshire in January. Plus, her long, classic overcoat flatters her thin legs, while distracting from her middle.
“She uses chunky jewelry which is great for her body shape,” Stafford says. “If she wore very dainty, delicate jewelry, it might look a bit underwhelming.