George W. Bush and First Lady Laura Bush greet president-elect Barack Obama and his wife Michelle.

For her first visit to the White House with her husband, Michelle Obama sent some clear messages via her choice of fashion.

For her first visit to the White House with her husband, President-elect Barack Obama, on Monday afternoon, Michelle Obama sent some clear messages via her choice of fashion: She’s loyal (she wore Maria Pinto); she can go political wife-patriotic (her bright coral dress looked flag-waving red on television), and she’s not averse to throwing a few curves (it might have been her leanest sheath yet).

Obama purchased the wool crepe empire dress with sun-pleated bodice some time ago, according to the designer, who spoke via phone from her Chicago studio. Pinto said she had no idea Obama had chosen to wear the dress to the White House until she saw her on television. “That’s what I love about her,” Pinto noted. “She has things in her wardrobe, in her closet, and she’s ready to go.” Obama has at least one more Pinto design she has yet to wear publicly, a lean black cashmere number with a “cascade effect” in back. As for the future first lady’s apparent preference for dresses, Pinto noted that Obama also owns a number of the designer’s separates: “Michelle has worn suits blouses and skirts, depending when you catch her. But some of the most notable ones, when she’s been most visible, [are dresses].”

This story first appeared in the November 11, 2008 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Pinto said that fashion choices “come very naturally” to Obama. “In working with clients I have found that everyone has a button,” she mused. “For some, it’s angst-driven. For others, it’s more natural. Michelle is very natural. She moves beautifully, and is naturally confident and comfortable. She knows what she looks good in but, at the same time, she’s open to suggestion.”

As to whether Obama will heed Pinto’s wardrobe advice for Jan. 20, the designer offered a polite “no comment.” However, asked if she thinks that for her inaugural gown Obama should choose a columnar variation of the simple sheaths she favors, or something a bit frothier, Pinto didn’t hesitate. “I see her sleek but with more froth,” she said. “It’s right for the moment. I don’t see her in a big, poufy ball skirt.” And, she added, “a lot from the collection is sleek, but also with embellishment.”

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