Know Everything About Michelle Obama is a Star in Paris

Added: June 17, 2009

Michelle Obama, whom French fashionistas regard as the best-dressed American first lady since Jackie Kennedy, lived up to her sartorial reputation during her trip to Paris, sporting a wardrobe of fashion-forward classics by top American designers.

But the woman who put unstuffy retailers like J. Crew on the fashion map also showed a weakness for high-end fashion "a la francaise," taking her two daughters on a private shopping trip to the exclusive children's couture house Bonpoint.

Mrs. Obama's visit to the City of Light was widely billed as a rematch of the "duel of charm" that pitted her in a glamour contest against France's first lady, the former supermodel-turned-singer Carla Bruni-Sarkozy.

The two faced off before the cameras only once during Mrs. Obama's latest visit, from Friday through Monday. For D-Day commemorations in Normandy, the first ladies chose strikingly similar looks, both in creamy white, knee-length dresses with contrasting belts and kitten heels.

The heels were a departure for Bruni-Sarkozy, a leggy Italian-born heiress who leaped to fame in the early 1990s as a top model. Since she married France's diminutive leader Nicolas Sarkozy last year, the 5'9" (175 centimeter) -tall first lady has largely stuck to flats for her public appearances.

Bruni-Sarkozy's outfit, which also included a swingy black cashmere coat, was signed Christian Dior - her favorite label. Also true to form, Mrs. Obama's dress was by Narciso Rodriguez, one of the stable of American designers she champions.

Britain's Daily Telegraph said photos of the two striding side-by-side on the red carpet at Saturday's commemorations were "surreally interchangeable with shots from a catwalk show. ... They could almost have been modeling some designers' collection named 'First Lady Spring 2009.'"

French fashion weekly Elle said the two looked like "twin sisters" and hailed their "sophisticated, feminine" 1950s-era looks as "a success: We want more!"

A similar thing happened at their last meeting, at a G-8 summit in the French border city of Strasbourg in April, when both showed up in stylish but proper coats embellished with flowing bows at the neckline and coordinated with matching dresses.

Then, the European fashion press generally concurred that Mrs. Obama's Thakoon ensemble, in black silk with fuchsia flowers, stole the show from Bruni-Sarkozy's Dior outfit in putty gray.

But it appeared that Bruni-Sarkozy's sophisticated Parisian style might be winning Mrs. Obama over.