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LAST SUMMER, Michele Obama wore a stunning black dress for her appearance on “The View” TV program…an event that sparked off a frenzy of interest in the store where she bought the outfit, White House/Black Market. 


Now that Mrs. Obama is taking up residence in the nation’s “Number One” White House amid thunderous celebrations and excitements this week, the well known fashion chain is capitalizing on the association by establishing its stores as “Inaugural Dress Headquarters.”


It has, for example, turned its Union Station store in Washington into an Obama showplace, filling it with beautifully designed dresses that are modestly priced and fit for any presidential-like affair that might take place this year.


                                          Display Magic


THE STORE has also designed its windows with a consumer-stopper:  a collection of four specially designed dresses called “The White House Inaugural Collection,” which it is auctioning off to a select quadrant of lucky buyers. The dresses are aptly called The Eleanor, The Abigail, The Jackie, and The Ladybird.  History and fashion through the decades!


You might say this is a modern play on the Smithsonian, where mannequins of First Ladies and their actual inaugural dresses are prominently displayed for visitors from all over the world to see. Just as the Smithsonian display is thrilling, so too is the White House/Black Market promotion.

—For one thing, connecting current events to product offerings invariably boosts sales and creates a more exciting shopping environment.  Try out the idea and see!


                                       Riveting Rhinestones


ACCESSORIES ALWAYS PLAY an important part in formal dressing, and it is no different with this year’s party dresses; in fact, in many ways, accessories are even more important now.  Glitz may be waning but shine is on the rise. And while women are buying more modestly priced dresses (or, for that matter, reusing those they already have), outfits are being updated and upgraded with dramatic and lush accessories.


One way to exaggerate shine and affect a rich, traditional appeal for dress-up this year is with rhinestone necklace and earring sets.  And the fascinating thing is that with the somewhat austere temperament in the country now, rhinestones are often being held in greater esteem than real diamonds.  Get the look; save the expense.  

  • Consider a rhinestone necklace set in silver plate that extends a full 17 inches. Matching earrings fall 1 ½ inches. Shown against a dark velvet background, these sets really come into their own! What’s more, they’ll coordinate well with almost any evening outfit.



  • An especially unique look, ideal for daring customers, is a double-row rhinestone hook and curve necklace in whiplash fashion inspired by Art Nouveau.  Matching simple drop earrings complete the set beautifully.


                                         Design Energy           



THIS IS ALSO A YEAR for many maverick dress-up outfits. Even normally black tie affairs are open to dresses that are not full length, even fairly short. Then, too, not all inaugural balls are being held in Washington, D.C., where a more classic mood does hold sway.  For example, Palm Beach County in Florida is awash with parties this week, all of them in honor of the new President and his wife. The dress codes:  Gorgeous…but variable! 

–And, expect to see socialites galore splendid with dazzling jewelry, in an almost playful real/faux mix. 


For example, a marvelous little beaded dress in brown with all-over silver horizontal stripes comes from designer Derek Lam and makes for a wonderful Palm Beach party dress.  With a hemline above the knee and seductively off-the-shoulder styling, this charming design is somewhat unconventional, but still meant for big celebrations.   

  • Fit it with sparkling earrings such as Michele Obama herself might wear. A good choice: Pave crystal earrings in elongated hoops. Wow! They are show-stoppers!


Another non-traditional inaugural-fitting outfit is a terribly sophisticated 2-piece silk blend double-collar belted jumpsuit by Donna Karan.  Exquisitely tailored, it makes a perfect outfit for any of the many Obama parties coast-to-coast, formal and casually comfortable at the same time.


  • What to choose for earrings? How about handsome graduated crystal drop earrings with silver plated settings? Or, to add color and light, choose faceted drop earrings in amber, pink, black, blue and red.


Add to all of these outfits some little colorful evening bags — you might even think red for “American royalty.” The new trend doesn’t require that bags or shoes match an outfit; often, the color is purposely different and more vibrant for a surprise, high fashion appearance. 

Try a red crushed satin clutch with a snakeskin appearance.  Or, an elongated clutch, also in red, for a real “pop” of color. And party away…

Comments (0) Posted by Mary McGarry on Tuesday, January 20th, 2009

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