First Lady Passes Fashionista Test

Tuesday was a tale of two dresses. Golden-shimmer, lemon-yellow and celery-cream were just three of the many adjectives used to describe the color of the Inauguration Day attire worn by first lady Michelle Obama.

Much less-ambiguous was the inaugural ball gown she wore in the evening, which was just white. Just as easy to gauge was a general consensus that she'd gotten both outfits right.

"It was a grand slam and absolutely spot on, not too much, not too little," said Jay Marose, a publicist who has played image consultant to numerous stars over the years. "She can pick out the trends but, more importantly, she can find the pieces that are the right trends for her and still look like a stateswoman."

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Obama's white evening gown offered a look that seemed particularly hard to fault.

It was designed by 26-year-old New York-based designer Jason Wu. He told "Good Morning America" today the dress was "a labor of love. ... I could not ask for anything more."

He said he chose white because to him, the Obamas' ascension to the White House "represents new energy, its bold, it's dreamlike, it's classic all the same time -- all the qualities I consider Michelle Obama to have."

The one-shoulder full-length dress was covered with petals made of fabric. Wu said he will always remember him and his four-person team "sewing on flowers till midnight."

Behind the yellow-gold ensemble Michelle Obama wore to the swearing-in ceremony was designer Isabel Toledo, a 47-year-old Cuban-born American, whose designs the first lady wore on several occasions during the campaign.

While Toledo is now ensured to become a household name, she has risen from relative obscurity in one fell swoop.

"Her [Obama's] use of under-the-radar American designers is a real boon to the fashion industry," executive editor of Nicole Phelps told ABC News. "It was a classic and elegant choice, different from the bright jewel tones she's worn previously, but the sparkly elements said, 'Pay attention to me.'"

While the first ladies of past years wore more traditionally patriotic colors, such as blue and red, to the swearing-in ceremonies, Michelle Obama, who stands at 5 feet 11 inches, seemed likely to buck that trend.

Having proved on Election Night with a fiery-red-and-black dress by Narciso Rodriguez that she wasn't afraid to make a statement, Michelle Obama, who paired her yellow-gold outfit with green gloves and green shoes, most likely knew that her selection was not going to please everyone.

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"I'm surprised at her choice, as I was not previously familiar with Toledo's designs," said celebrity wardrobe stylist Brooke Dulien, who has dressed Gwen Stefani and Janet Jackson, among others. "The dress would not have been my first choice, but the color was bold and exciting, and she looked radiant."

"We haven't had a fashion role model [in the White House] since Jackie Kennedy, so while not my favorite fit, this was an exciting, iconic statement," she said.

"The one-shoulder was fresh, sophisticated, I just loved it," said Dana Icaza, marketing director for cosmetics giant Sephora. "It was a little too billowy after the umpire waist at first glance, but up close it definitely worked."

The traditional nature of the ball dress surprised some.

"I was thinking she'd wear something much less conservative than the last three first ladies," Phelps said. "[But] I wasn't surprised to see the one-shoulder neckline, as she's young, in great shape and loves to show off her arms."

"My first thought tonight was that Michelle reminded me of Nancy Reagan's Wilma Flintstone gown from 1981," Marose said. "But after getting a better look, you could see how well Michelle wore it. Nancy was swallowed by her trendy gown while Michelle rocked hers."

With Laura Bush, wearing a smart gray skirt suit and Hillary Clinton playing it characteristically safe, it was left to Jill Biden to ruffle feathers with a bright-red coat, tall boots and a skirt cut just above the knee.

Erik Meers, former managing editor of GQ and Harpers Bazaar, was less than impressed.

"The skirt was way too short, and those go-go boots were crazily inappropriate for the occasion," Meers said. "Jill Biden's got a little of the loose cannon in her, and some serious media training looks to be in order."

Obama's gown is to be donated to the Smithsonian Institution, as tradition dictates. What this means is style-confident Michelle Obama will have no other option but to give the world's fashion followers another outfit to preserve -- and critique.