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For a formal gathering, Michelle Obama demonstrates her sophistication in this elegant deep blue gown. (Getty Images)

How To Dress As 'Commander In Chic'

by NPR Staff
Dec 9, 2011 (Tell Me More)

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Michelle Obama sports casual skinny black pants and a matching jacket. Michelle Obama shines in vivid red. Michelle Obama shows off a gray outfit with a simple cardigan and a houndstooth skirt.

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Fashion admirers of first lady Michelle Obama take note of her poise and style with the same intensity given to super models and A-list actors.

Mikki Taylor, editor-at-large for Essence magazine, shows how the first lady's style is timeless and accessible to the modern woman in her new book, Commander In Chic: Every Woman's Guide to Managing Her Style Like a First Lady.

"Mrs. Obama masters style with distinction, simply put. She has a dress code that works for her, and she shops at all price points," Taylor says in an interview with Tell Me More host Michel Martin.

Taylor notes that Obama looks to high-end designers, as well as J.Crew and H&M. The secret, Taylor says, is that Obama doesn't shy away from adding a punch with a decorative brooch, vibrant scarf or eye-catching earrings.

Taylor says that the first lady makes use of "repeat performers," or classic pieces that can be re-purposed for different occasions. She says that Obama is a wise woman with a "great, well-invested wardrobe."

For example, a cropped black cardigan can be worn over a sun dress in the day or over a black sheath dress at night.

But what about the woman who's focused on making it through the work day, driving her kids to soccer practice, and then putting a meal on the table? Can she be just as fabulous?

The key, according to Taylor, is to build a "bankable wardrobe" — a series of classic pieces that can be mixed and matched, depending on whether you're heading to work, the neighborhood picnic, or dinner with friends. Ultimately, Taylor says that style should be a concern for every woman because it's a form of personal expression.

"Style, in the broad stroke, really has everything to do with who you are," says Taylor. "It is so important that you define your style across the board, from how you conduct yourself in the world, from what you will and won't allow to become your truth, to how well you dress."

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