To an elegant, formal state dinner hosted by Queen Elizabeth II, the first lady wore a white gown with a crisscross halter neckline by Tom Ford, a top-tier American designer who makes his home half the year across the pond.
Mrs. Obama’s hair was pinned up in a chignon, which showed off dangling earrings. She accessorized with white opera gloves and a silver clutch bag.
The queen also had on a white gown, and a lot of sparkle.
It might not have been a coordinated fashion statement between the two women, but InStyle fashion director Hal Rubenstein isn’t sure it was a coincidence, either. “There’s something awfully harmonious about the picture. The thing that’s cool about Mrs. Obama’s white, which the queen tends to wear at events like this, is that she doesn’t compete. … It’s a form-fitting gown but there’s no decollete, it’s very respectful and tasteful, yet it’s very striking.”
President Barack Obama matched too, with a white bow tie, dress shirt and pocket square.
Earlier, at a daytime arrivals ceremony, Mrs. Obama and the queen complemented each other in blue floral dresses.
There was another fashion plate at Buckingham Palace as well: The new Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton, wore a sand-colored dress by the British label Reiss. Her appearance sparked such a rush in demand for the above-the-knee sheath, with a retail price of $340, that the retailer’s website traffic increased by more than 300 percent, resulting in several crashes throughout the day, according to the company.
The dress was sophisticated and chic, if not a bit understated, but the duchess put her own twist on the outfit with her black pointy-toe pumps and black satin clutch handbag by Anya Hindmarch. The bag was engraved with her initials.
The 29-year-old newlywed “looks her age. I was afraid the minute she got in the royal family, she’d be wearing clothes that were too formal. I like that there’s no coat or suit,” said Kate Betts, author of Everyday Icon: Michelle Obama and the Power of Style.
Mrs. Obama also hit it right, said Betts. “She looks so pretty. The dress is so English. In my opinion, she rarely makes a mistake, and today is no different.”
Her ice-blue, floral-jacquard dress was by California designer Barbara Tfank, which she paired with a light purple bolero.
“The color of her dress, the print, it all seems like an homage to the queen,” said Betts, a contributing editor at Time magazine.
Betts noted that Mrs. Obama wore a cardigan sweater when she first met the queen two years ago, sparking debate whether she had taken too literally the casual sportswear style that is the signature of American fashion. “I think she wore that bolero jacket as a wink to the cardigan thing,” she said.
Mrs. Obama also went with President Obama to Westminster Abbey and 10 Downing St., the official residence of British Prime Minister David Cameron. For that, she wore a purple dress by Serbian-born Roksanda Ilincic with a bright blue coat by New York-based Narciso Rodriguez.
That came after an electric blue ensemble by British label Preen she wore for her late-night arrival on Monday at the Stansted Airport. Her dangling, teardrop earrings were made by Hollywood favorite Cathy Waterman.