Michelle Obama Inauguration Predictions

    If expectations are high for Barack Obama, they're no less soaring for his wife -- at least in a sartorial sense. After two decades of Bush and Clinton women -- for whom style was not a sixth sense -- the inarguably fashionable and seemingly fearless Michelle Obama has trend-watchers in a frenzy. Tall and taut, with the broad shoulders and self-confidence to carry off whatever she wants, Obama has spent the past 21 months being compared to Jacqueline Kennedy. And, so far, Obama has acquitted herself well, showing off recession-friendly dresses from White House/ Black Market and pricey styles from edgy designers like Isabel Toledo, who she wore (left) last spring to a fundraiser with fashion industry heavyweights. What will she favor for the White House? StyleList takes a look at her past -- and offers some predictions for the future. And for those who think clothes don't matter, remember the words of JFK as he introduced his wildly popular wife at a 1961 State Dinner at Charles de Gaulle's presidential palace. "I am the man," Kennedy said, "who accompanied Jacqueline Kennedy to Paris."

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    She hasn't even gotten to the White House, but Michelle Obama has already done more than any fashion mag to make Thakoon a household name. The Thai-born designer's dresses were perfect for several major moments on the campaign trail, including (at left) the final night of the Democratic National Convention. At right, the rose-colored silk dress as it appeared on Thakoon's runway. Mrs. Obama seems to have made no changes to it -- except the addition of three her trademark pins to the neckline. (And for those who can't afford Thakoon's four-figure price tags, the designer debuts a more recession-friendly collection at Target in December.)

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    No, we don't expect the new First Lady to parade her abs at the Easter egg roll. But with just a few strategically placed swaths of fabric, this delicate floral sheath by Thakoon could meet the needs of the most demanding East Wing schedule.

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    Back in 1982, when Nancy Reagan wore rhinestone-trimmed knickers to a dinner at the American Embassy in Paris, she was ridiculed across two continents. So it's no surprise that Michelle Obama decided to keep her thighs safely away from the runway version of Moschino's flowered silk shorts (right). What's a First Lady-wannabe to do? Moschino took the same gray-and-purple fabric and used it to bare Mrs. O's knee's in a more Donna Reed way -- a soft shirtwaist that made her look both comfortable and camera-ready for the debut of the Obama-Biden ticket in Springfield, Ill. last summer. Surely, Nancy would have approved.

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    This purple silk coat and carnival-striped dress from Moschino's spring collection strikes the perfect balance between the White House need to look sophisticated and Mrs. Obama's penchant to shake-it-up.

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    If fashion tells a story, Michelle Obama's fiery red confetti-printed dress conveyed every bit of her Election Night euphoria. True, the Narciso Rodriguez sheath, modified from the runway version at right, earned as many barbs as raves -- "Maybe it looked really awesome up close?" one fashion wag asked. But you won't find a trace of disappointment on Obama's face, which glowed as brightly as her $10,275 Loree Rodkin diamond earrings.

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    Narcisco Rodriguez's edgy black-and-white dress would be techy enough for the You Tube generation and graphic enough for those Dinosaur Age readers of print media.

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    Tall and toned, Mrs. Obama isn't afraid to experiment. She plays with color (usually favoring brights) and shape (usually body-hugging) -- and, just when you think you've figured out her fashion maxims, she veers in another direction. The cantaloupe-colored Moschino dress that she wore to her husband's acceptance of the Harold Washington Award this fall was a softer color and silhouette than her typical fare.

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    Hillary Clinton made front-page news in 1993, when she co-hosted the Governors' Dinner at the White House in Donna Karan's "cold-shoulder" dress, a dramatic long-sleeved black sheath with -- surpise! -- the shoulders cut out. We're not sure the world is ready for a First Lady in a cut-out torso, but with a bit of fabric in all the right places, Narciso Rodriguez's 'bondage" gown would be a fierce addition to Mrs. Obama's don't-mess-with-me repertoire.

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    Peter Soronen's fashions are fun, flirty, and fit for a woman confident enough to show off her curves. Small wonder he's earned red-carpet time from the likes of Sarah Jessica Parker, Jennifer Hudson and Tina Fey. He's also added Michelle Obama to his roster. At left, her white delicately-patterned dress is adapted from Soronen's houndstooth check sheath.

    Peter Soronen