Michelle Obama's 14 State Dinner Gowns Prove She's More Than a Fashion Icon -- She's a Diplomat

Beth Stebner | Oct 19, 2016 Beauty & Style
Michelle Obama's 14 State Dinner Gowns Prove She's More Than a Fashion Icon -- She's a Diplomat

When it comes to state dinners, Michelle Obama never disappoints. She's always been one to go for the glamour, picking gorgeous gowns that any of us would give a (decidedly untoned) arm to wear.

And when she wore a custom Atelier Versace at her 14th and final state dinner, that sound you heard across the country was the clash of every fashion editor's jaw collectively hitting the floor. Here was the woman who always favored voluminous ballgowns wearing a chainmail-inspired look -- in rose gold, no less! 

But what's brilliant about her look -- besides the fact that it would look just as much at home at some fabulous Hollywood soiree -- is that she paid careful attention to the occasion. The dinner was honoring the Italian prime minister; and Versace, along with Gucci and Prada, are the most prestigious Italian design houses today.

So by wearing Versace (and wearing it damn well!), FLOTUS was also showing solidarity for Italy's robust fashion industry. And everyone took notice, including the designer herself. 

"Thank you, Michelle, for all of the things you have done for America and for the rest of the world, for the women in the United States and the rest of the world," designer Donatella Versace said in a statement. And what Versace says is so true -- Michelle's navigated the world of global politics with aplomb and ease, using her influence to not only promote causes, but economies.

By often choosing designers that herald from the country of honor, Michelle's doing what only a woman in her office can -- say everything, without saying anything at all.

With that in mind, we've rounded up all of her glorious state dinner looks, and cannot wait to see what the future holds for the woman who not only inspires, but does so in couture. 


Image via Olivier Douliery/ZUMA Press/Splash News

  • In Custom Atelier Versace

    michelle obama atelier versace
    Image via Olivier Douliery / ZUMA Press / Splash News

    The first lady's custom rose gold (and chain mail!) Atelier Versace gown wouldn't have been out of place at the Oscars. But it was also a diplomatic move, since the Obamas were hosting the Italian prime minister for their last state dinner.

    More from CafeMom: Michelle Obama's Moving Speech Is the Anecdote to Soothe Our Election-Worn Souls

  • In Naeem Khan

    Image via Drew Angerer/Getty Images

    For the Nordic state dinner in May, Michelle rocked a structural, modern design by Indian-American designer Naeem Khan. Is anyone else getting Elsa vibes? No? Just us?

  • In Jason Wu

    michelle obama state dinner jason wu
    Image via Alex Wong/Getty Images

    When meeting our neighbors up north (aka Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his wife, Sophie Grégoire Trudeau), Michelle opted for a navy blue strappless gown by Taiwanese-Canadian Jason Wu.

  • In Brandon Maxwell

    Image via NurPhoto/Getty Images

    For meeting Singapore's prime minister Lee Hsien Loong and his wife, Ho Ching, Michelle did something very unusual -- she channeled Lady Gaga.

    The structural cream dress was designed by Gaga favorite Brandon Maxwell, who has also created gowns for Gwyneth Paltrow and Kristen Wiig.

  • In Vera Wang

    michelle obama state dinner vera wang
    Image via Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

    For a state dinner on September 25, 2015, the First Lady wore this gorgeous off-the-shoulder number from Chinese-American designer Vera Wang. Fitting, as the dinner was honoring Chinese president Xi Jinping, and his wife, Peng Liyuan.

  • In Carolina Herrera

    Image via Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

    Oozing in her first lady elegance, FLOTUS was nothing but très chic in Venezuelan-American designer Carolina Herrera to greet French president François Hollande in 2014.

  • In Tadashi Shoji


    She looked radiant in a cobalt dress by Japanese-American designer Tadashi Shoji when she welcomed Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan in April 2015.

  • In Marchesa

    Image via Mark Wilson/Getty Images

    Michelle donned a stunning teal Marchesa gown in 2012 to meet British prime minister David Cameron and his wife, Samantha Cameron. 

  • In Doo-Ri Chung


    Also in 2011, MObama donned a grape-colored gown by South Korean designer Doo-Ri Chung for a state dinner honoring the South Korean president. 

    And can we talk about the fabulous statement belt? Because that statement belt should be talked about. A lot.

  • In Custom Alexander McQueen


    Michelle slayed in this custom red silk organza gown for a January 2011 state dinner with Chinese president Hu Jintao

    Later that year, someone called Kate Middleton would tap McQueen's new creative director (and former assistant to the late fashion designer), Sarah Burton, to design a gown for her wedding. 

    But this gown wasn't without controversy. The late great fashion designer Oscar de la Renta questioned her choice to wear a European designer when meeting with the head of an Asian country.

  • In Naeem Khan

    Image via Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images

    FLOTUS again chose Indian-American designer Naeem Khan in 2009, but rightly so. She and Obama were meeting Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of India and wife Gursharan Kaur.

  • In Peter Soronen

    Image via Mark Wilson/Getty Images

    During the Great Belt Era of Michelle's fashion decade, she elected to wear designer Peter Soronen to meet Mexican president Felipe Calderón in 2010.

  • In Tom Ford

    michelle obama tom ford state dinner
    Image via AFP/Getty Images

    When it comes to meeting royalty, you have to go the extra mile to look royal yourself. And Michelle did that beautifully for a state dinner in 2011 when she and Obama met Queen Elizabeth II, wearing a bright white Tom Ford gown and white gloves.

  • In Naeem Khan

    Image via Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images

    If it ain't broke! To meet Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany in 2011, Michelle again relied on trusted designer Naeem Khan, this time picking an elegant beaded gown.

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