Michelle Obama lights London with bright colors

May 24, 2011 - 3:00 PM
Britain Obama

U.S. President Barack Obama, left, and first lady Michelle Obama, right, talk to Britain's Prince William, 2nd left, and the Duchess of Cambridge at Buckingham Palace, in London Tuesday May 24, 2011. President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama traded-in Irish charm for the pomp and pageantry of Buckingham Palace Tuesday as they opened a two-day State Visit to Britain at the invitation of Queen Elizabeth II. (AP Photo/Toby Melville, Pool)

Michelle Obama packed a wardrobe of cheerful, colorful clothes to accompany her husband on a state visit to England. She made quick changes from one dress to another on Tuesday, wearing designer labels that stretch from Los Angeles to London.

But Mrs. Obama wasn't the only trendsetter at Buckingham Palace: The new Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton, wore a sand-colored dress by the British label Reiss to an arrival ceremony with Queen Elizabeth II. 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."

At the palace, the first lady wore an ice-blue, floral-jacquard dress by California designer Barbara Tfank, which she paired with a light purple bolero. The frock complemented the queen's own blue floral dress.

"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.

Later in the day, Mrs. Obama went with President Barack 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.