Monday, October 17, 2011

Michelle Obama shines at South Korea state dinner

by Piper Weiss, Shine Staff, on Thu Oct 13, 2011

First lady Michelle Obama in a Doo.Ri gown at the White House State Dinner on Thursday. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
First lady Michelle Obama in a Doo.Ri gown at the White House State Dinner on Thursday. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
From the basement of her parents dry cleaning store to the White House, Doo-Ri Chung has come a long way. On Thursday night, First Lady Michelle Obama debuted a gown created by the 38-year-old Korean-American designer at the White House state dinner.

The Doo.Ri one-shouldered purple gown with an embellished, belted waist, made a striking statement as the first couple prepared to enter the gala event in the East Room of the White House on the rainy evening.

Meet the style team behind the First Lady's looks

Guests of honor South Korean President Lee Myung-bak and his wife, Kim Yoon-ok, dressed in a traditional pink and white hanbok, greeted an eclectic crowd that included Tennis legend Billie Jean King and renowned chef David Chang.

Like the four past state dinners hosted by the Obama Administration, pressure was on the first lady to select a style that appeased both political and sartorial pundits. It’s not always an easy task. In January, she was criticized by American designers when she chose a crimson gown by British brand Alexander McQueen for the state dinner with China’s president.

This time around, she hit all the right notes. The brilliant eggplant fabric and shoulder-baring cut, a Mrs. O staple, captured her contemporary elegance. And the choice of an American-born designer with South Korean roots paid respect to the evening's guests of honor and the national industry that so heavily relies on her backing. Since her husband took office in 2008, Obama has been a one-woman juggernaut turning avant garde, emerging designers into runway superstars overnight.

After tonight, Chung’s label Doo.Ri, will follow Jason Wu and Thakoon as the next big thing Mrs. O spins into gold. Chung, a New York-based designer known for her skillful drapery, began her career in 2001 in her family's dry cleaning store and developed into a go-to dressmaker for Eva Longoria, Rachel McAdams and Kristen Stewart—who wore a strawberry Doo.Ri design to "The Runaways" premiere.

But now that Michelle Obama's wearing her line, Chung's career is defined.  

Earlier today the First Lady raised the profile of another young american designer, Chris Benz, when she wore a deep blue bolero and pencil skirt suit by the designer during a visit to a D.C. High school with Yoon-ok. Speaking to students at Annandale High School, Obama emphasized the importance of “exploring new things—discovering what makes you come alive.” It's a credo that could equally be applied to style. On Thursday night, Mrs. O practiced what she preached. 

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