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Men'sWeek issue 03/15/2012

FIRST LADY CHIC: First Ladies Michelle Obama and Samantha Cameron squared off in a fashion tussle between American and British designers, each showcasing a sampling of their country’s best on Wednesday. In a preview of things to come later at the state dinner that night, Cameron wore a tonal belted dress by Roksanda Ilincic paired with an Emilia Wickstead belt and L.K. Bennett pumps for the formal arrival of her and her husband, British Prime Minister David Cameron, at the White House. Obama wore a steel gray Zac Posen dress with a jacket and, later at an event previewing the state dinner for British and American students, showed off her toned arms in just the sleeveless dress that had a band of dark teal around the waist. She adorned the dress with a multicolored crystal broach depicting a bird in flight.

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To the official dinner, Michelle Obama wore Marchesa, according to the White House pool report. It is sheer, dark teal or blue-gray, floor-length, with a short train in the back and ruching at the waist. Her hair was pulled back off of her shoulders and she wore bold, multi-strand necklaces, beaded and a mix of blues, teals and turquoise. In addition, the report noted, Georgina Chapman, co-founder of Marchesa is a guest tonight.

This story first appeared in the March 15, 2012 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

According to the pool report, M. Obama said: “They look better than us,” as the Camerons stepped out of the town car. Samantha Cameron wore a navy blue Alessandra Rich gown, patterned with subtle sequins, and shoes from U.K. High Street shop Next, her press office said.

Even as the first ladies highlighted the distinctions between British and American fashion design, the White House sought to find unity between the two countries in the decor, menu and even entertainment. The state dinner was themed “America’s Backyard” and highlighted a “celebration of American gardens…and the beauty of the countryside English gardens.” White House executive chef Cris Comerford said the menu was a marriage of British and American traditions. The White House took its inspiration for the menu from its own kitchen garden’s late winter harvest and early spring greens, which chefs harvested the day before the dinner. Comerford said she took a classic English dish, beef Wellington, and added an American twist to it for the main course of bison Wellington, a buffalo tenderloin. Guests began the meal with crisped halibut with potato crust served on a bed of braised baby kale fresh from the White House garden, followed by a salad with greens from the same garden and topped off the meal with a steamed lemon pudding, also a nod to the traditional British treat, with an Idaho huckleberry sauce to “unite British and American flavors.”

Even the entertainment was divided between American singer John Legend and the British folk-rock band Mumford & Sons.

The star-studded guest list for the state dinner included some Hollywood and British star power, in addition to business and media titans, including actor George Clooney; British actor Hugh Bonneville, star of “Downton Abbey”; Damian Lewis, star of “Homeland”; golfer Rory McIlroy; Warren Buffett; Vogue editor in chief Anna Wintour; Debra Lee, chairman and chief executive officer of BET Networks; Paul Tash, chairman and ceo, Times Publishing Co.; movie mogul Harvey Weinstein, and Sally Susman, executive vice president, Policy, External Affairs and Communications at Pfizer Inc.

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