In 2009, at her first major public appearance as First Lady—the Inaugural Ball—Michelle Obama wore a gown by Jason Wu. Last night, in her final major public appearance as First Lady—the Farewell Address—she again donned a dress by Wu.
In the eight years in between, Obama was lauded by the fashion industry for her sartorial choices—being deemed “safe” at worst, and at best, launching the career of a previously unknown designer. For this reason alone, she showed the power a notable figure could have when it comes to fashion, and she used that power to highlight the work of the American fashion industry and representing it on the international stage. She also donned wares by designers from other countries when the moment seemed appropriate (such as at state dinners), a sartorially diplomatic move, and a silent support of the diplomacy her husband was known for.
For his final speech to the nation, President Obama echoed several talking points that he made in his inauguration speech: unity, fairness, and bipartisanship. “Yes we can” became “Yes we did”. Though Michelle Obama has not officially stated that her choice of wearing Wu was a reference to the start of her family’s time at the White House, it’s the sentiment that many are picking up on.