Michelle Obama: All Eyes on the Other Obama

There's something about Michelle Obama, and Brits think they know what it is.

April 1, 2009, 4:29 PM

April 2, 2009 -- From the moment the Obamas stepped off Air Force One outside London Monday night, so many eyes have been on first lady Michelle Obama.

This is the first time in nearly 50 years, since Jacqueline Kennedy took a trip across the pond, that Europe has so widely anticipated a visit by a U.S. first lady.

The trip may be her husband's debut on the world stage but it is the first lady who just might steal the show. In much of the British tabloid press, it is Michelle Obama, not her husband, who is the main focus of the "Obamamania" headlines.

Mrs. Obama's visit to an all-girls school in London today seemed more like an appearance by English soccer star David Beckham or pop boy band The Jonas Brothers, with shrieking students clamoring to get close enough to greet her.

The European reaction to the Obamas recalls the Kennedy's trip to Paris in 1961, when Jacqueline Kennedy wowed with her glamorous style and fluent French.

The attention and reception the first lady received on that trip prompted the president to joke about his standing in the power couple. "I am the man who accompanies Jacqueline Kennedy to Paris," Kennedy said.

Much like Parisians' reaction to Jackie Kennedy, so too are the Brits "completely in love" with Michelle Obama, said Alexandra Schulman, editor of London Vogue.

"She's something different," Schulman said. "She looks like she's enjoying herself. She's glamorous, she has a fresh glamour. We love it if it's another country's political wives looking glamorous. We have more problems and are more critical when it's our own and our politicians' budgets that are being spent on their dress, sadly."

Much of the attention on the first lady has focused on her wardrobe.

The Obamas drew a large crowd of spectators outside Buckingham Palace today, and talk of the first lady's attire dominated the conversation.

"She's very stylish, always looking amazing, always looking very smart," Rachel Abbott said.

Her friend Katie Hunt agreed. "She's probably in the Top 10 of being best dressed, in the world."

Already on the trip, Michelle Obama has sported designs from Isabel Toledo, who created her Inauguration Day dress and jacket; Jason Wu, who designed her one-shoulder white chiffon inaugural ball dress; and a skirt and cardigan from one of her favorites, and a regular in the rotation, J. Crew.

A sparkling cardigan that Mrs. Obama wore early in the day Wednesday -- a $298 item dubbed the Crystal Constellation Cardigan -- quickly sold out, J.Crew told "Good Morning America." The pencil skirt she wore with the sweater is expected to be sold out soon as well, the company said.

First Lady Keeps Own Schedule on European Trip

"I think she could do no wrong," Vogue's Schulman said. "Frankly, she could wear a rubbish bag and I'd still think she looked great."

But for the first lady, the trip is more than just couture, double-strand pearls and tea and crumpets.

The first lady has her own schedule of events, including a tour of a London health facility yesterday with Sarah Brown, Britain's first lady and a visit to an all-girls school today where she emphasized the power of an education.

The first lady caused a shrieking frenzy among the 11-17-year old students at the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Language School. There she explained why being smart is cool and even shared a little girl talk about her courtship with her husband, President Obama.

"By getting a good education you too can create your own destiny. I never cut class. I like being smart. I thought being smart was the coolest thing in the world," she said, echoing remarks she has made to students in Washington D.C. "You are the women that will build the world as it should be and that's why a good education is so important."

Yesterday, she and the president paid a visit to Buckingham Palace to meet with Queen Elizabeth II. The Obamas presented the queen with a gift of an inscribed video iPod, with preloaded songs, and a rare musical songbook signed by U.S. composer Richard Rodgers.

And like any good fashionista, the first lady did change her outfit from earlier in the day for the meeting with the queen.

Obama may not be their first lady, but many women of color in Britain find her inspirational, including one who told ABC News that she's inspired to achieve greater things by seeing the first lady's strength.

Later this week, Michelle Obama will attend events with other NATO spouses during the summit in France.

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