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DRESS POLICY: First Lady Michelle Obama’s on-again, off-again fashion nods have some in the design and journalism communities wondering what the White House protocol is behind giving out those fashion credits. Her press secretary, Katie McCormick Lelyveld, explained it to WWD this way: “It is not an announcement from the office. We simply let folks know on the nights of big events like the ballet, state dinners and events hosted here, or when she is traveling. Of course, there is a great interest on higher-profile nights and for those periodic requests, we let pool reporters know. Otherwise, for daytime trips or daytime activities that she might do, like taking the kids to school, or hosting a service event, which occur more frequently and are lower profile, we obviously do not announce anything. But for the big events, there is a great interest.”

And while it might seem hit and miss — since what some might consider “high profile,” like this week’s Metropolitan Opera House appearance, the White House doesn’t (it didn’t reveal she wore Alaïa and Thakoon) — Carl Sferrazza Anthony, historian at the National First Ladies’ Library in Canton, Ohio, said the First Lady’s approach is “dead-on.” “I think maybe some mornings Mrs. Obama says, ‘Well, I have to do a school event at 11, a luncheon at 12 and leave early to tape a public service announcement and it’s hot out,’ and she may not know what she is wearing and it is possible that her press office doesn’t even know,” Anthony said. “Their approach [to releasing information about Obama’s wardrobe] is a very reality-based way of functioning. At the same time there is a really highly conscientious effort and there has always been a conscientious effort historically, to be aware that what they wear will help define the administration and help serve as a symbol for the administration and beyond themselves as an individual. Mrs. Obama has struck the right balance.”

This story first appeared in the May 22, 2009 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.




NOT YOUR MOTHER’S SCHWINN: Several well-heeled Fendi shoppers snagged a new pair of wheels at a Wednesday shopping event to celebrate the Fendi Abici Amante Donna bicycle being featured in the Vogue’s Last Look page in June. The one of a kind bike is designed for luxe city cruising at two price points. A $5,900 version comes with Fendi’s Selleria leather accessories — such as a key and bike chain cover and leather gps navigation holder — and a detachable Fendi case that on its own costs $975. A fully loaded bicycle for $9,500 comes complete with removable fur saddlebags. Among those ogling the two-wheelers at Wednesday’s event included Helen Schifter, Maggie Rizer, Jessica Joffe, Zac Posen and Nina Griscom. During the evening, four shoppers at Fendi’s Fifth Avenue flagship purchased bikes — two of the lower-priced models — while two high-rollers went for the fur-trimmed cruiser.

DIDDY’S NIGHT: Yes, the Cîroc was flowing and yes, it was a Philippe Chow-catered affair, but the artist formally known as Sean Combs — and currently as Diddy, or Puff to friends — wasn’t in typical party mode Wednesday night. In fact, he seemed pretty anxious. “I always get nervous playing my new music for people,” Combs said, just moments before giving the few-dozen guests gathered in his recording-studio lounge a listen to his unfinished album, “Last Train to Paris” (it’s scheduled to be released in November). In a short, and very low-key speech, the musician-slash-mogul reminded guests (including music video director Hype Williams and Dawn Richard, formerly of the group Danity Kane) that what they were about to hear would be like “watching the bootleg version of ‘X-Men,’ you know, still with the strings.”

The music, though — a mix of thumping house beats, funk and Prince-esque vocals — was anything but unpolished. It’s a gutsy move for an artist heretofore known as a rapper and hip-hop producer, which might be why Combs played it safe, sartorially speaking, in a bucket hat, black-and-white striped polo and black jeans, all from his own Sean John line. “I put things in boxes in my head, so tonight I’m not thinking about the clothes,” he said. “Tonight it’s about making sure that everyone likes the music and has a drink in their hand.”

One of the more popular guests was certainly enjoying herself: R&B singer Cassie, Combs’ rumored girlfriend, who made tabloid headlines last month when she shaved the right side of her head and posted the photos on Twitter. The 22-year-old Connecticut native was wearing an Alexander Wang tank, Kiki de Montparnasse bra, J Brand jeans, Loree Rodkin rings and metallic Dsquared heels. Currently at work on her second album, the singer said she’s been loving her new punkish cut, despite its high maintenance. “I get it touched up by a barber every three days,” she said with a smile.

EAST ENDERS: Those headed out East this weekend will find a new addition to the summer shopping landscape in East Hampton. Husband-and-wife team Sachin and Babi Ahluwalia opened their second Ankasa store at 55A Main Street on Monday. The store will feature their resort and beach home collections as well as their new ready-to-wear line, Sachin and Babi for Ankasa, to which they’ve added a range of hand-embroidered tunics for their new tunic-loving clientele.

OSCAR MINIS: Oscar de la Renta launched a line of girls’ dresses in its Melrose Place boutique last weekend with a shopping party for fans of mommy-and-me dressing. The pint-size shifts, in floral prints matching some of the women’s dresses, retail for $200 to $350, with $100 from the sale of each dress donated to the Children’s Defense Fund. Moms Malaak Compton-Rock (wife of Chris) and Laura Wasserman were on hand with their daughters, as well as Katherine Ross, Elizabeth Stewart and Liseanne Frankfurt, who said, “It’s all good until they turn nine, then they become more interested in your clothes.”