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Art and Architecture: Design and Style - Why Style Matters: First Ladies and Their Impact on American Fashion

April 12, 2011

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FREE - Doors open at 5:30 p.m.

Every first lady makes an impression, whether she means to or not. Some arrive at the White House already well versed in the sartorial requirements of the job--what Lady Bird Johnson referred to as the "harness of hairdo and gloves"--and embrace the style-setting authority of the role as Jackie Kennedy did in 1961. Others resent the expectation, failing to grasp why what makes them feel comfortable should be the public's business. During this discussion we look at how first ladies have impacted American style and changed the way women in this country dress for work, for the public spotlight, and for themselves.

For the fashion insider as well as the fashion curious and for cultural history junkies, comes a book from Kate Betts, style contributor to Time magazine--and one of the few people at the intersection of politics and fashion--about Michelle Obama's emergence as a style icon and what it means for women, First Ladies, and the future of American style. In Everyday Icon: Michelle Obama and the Power of Style covering more  than just what Michelle Obama is wearing, Kate examines the difference between style and fashion and takes a historical look at the influence First Ladies have had on American style. As a Time writer and former editor in chief of Harper's Bazaar, Kate writes from the unique perspective of both a journalist and a fashion industry leader, providing the first real analysis of how Mrs. Obama has redefined "American style." With 200 photographs, original drawings, and historical images, Kate deconstructs the journey this working mother of two has taken from child of  Chicago's South Side to unforgettable, global style icon.

Copies of Everyday Icon: Michelle Obama and the Power of Style are available for purchase and signing at the event.

Kate Betts is the author of the new book Everyday Icon. She is a contributing editor at TIME magazine and also a contributor to The Daily Beast. Previously, Betts was the editor in chief of Harper’s Bazaar and the fashion news director of Vogue. Betts was recently named one of the top 10 fashion editors by Forbes magazine. She has appeared on network and cable television regularly since 1993, including The Today Show, The View and The Charlie Rose Show. She is a frequent contributor to NPR’s Marketplace and has done regular reporting for CNN. A graduate of Princeton University, she resides in New York City with her husband and two children.

Patricia Mears is the Deputy Director for the Museum at FIT. She began working at the Fashion Institute of Technology's Museum (MFIT) as the research curator in 2005, and was promoted to her current position in 2006. Her exhibitions have included The Tailor’s Art (2005), It Ralph Rucci: The Art of Weightlessness (2007), Madame Grès: Sphinx of Fashion (2008), Isabel Toledo: Fashion from the Inside Out (2009), and American Beauty: Aesthetics and Innovation in Fashion (2009). Prior to that she was the assistant curator of the costume and textile collection at the Brooklyn Museum of Art where she organized numerous exhibitions and wrote the accompanying publications including  Fancy Feet (1993); A Slice of Schiaparelli (1995); and Japonism in Fashion (1998). Mears has written numerous books and essays for exhibition publications such as Japan Fashion Now (Yale University Press, 2010); American Beauty: Aesthetics and Innovation in Fashion (Yale University Press, 2009); Isabel Toledo: Fashion from the Inside Out (Yale University Press, 2009); Madame Grès: Sphinx of Fashion (Yale University Press, 2008); and  Ralph Rucci: The Art of Weightlessness (Yale University Press, 2007).

Originally from California Rachel Roy attended college in Washington DC. Upon graduation, Rachel pursued her passion for design, and moved to New York City to work freelance; styling magazine shoots and music videos ultimately landing an internship at Rocawear where she became  Creative Director overseeing seven licensees and running all of the design departments and their teams for Rocawear Juniors and Girls. In Fall 2004, she applied her sophisticated aesthetic to her own collection, Rachel Roy New York, which debuted in department and specialty stores for Spring 2005. Roy has garnered editorial acclaim in publications such as Vogue, Elle, Harper's Bazaar, W and Vanity Fair. Michelle Obama, Eva Mendes, Kate Hudson, Jennifer Garner, Iman, Lucy Liu, Sharon Stone and Penelope Cruz among others have worn Rachel Roy New York at Hollywood's most prestigious events, and in January 2007 Rachel was invited to appear as a guest on The Oprah Winfrey Show , a milestone in a still young career. Also in 2007, she was inducted into the CFDA as a new member where she stands alongside other esteemed fashion industry individuals. Rachel Roy NEW YORK has grown to include four full collections each year.

Chicago native Peter Soronen made his New York runway debut in 2007, and has been designing custom evening gowns and bridal dresses since the early 1990s when he opened his studio in New York. Soronen's study of corsetry and craftsmanship allows for rich creations that are steeped in history. His silhouettes are inspired by the Elizabethan, Louis XIV, and Victorian eras as well as the 1950s. In 2009 he launched a line of mid-priced cocktail dresses called PS for Peter Soronen. He has dressed Sarah Jessica Parker, Reese Witherspoon, Hilary Swank, and Christina Aguilera among others. He has also created stunning gowns for Michelle Obama, most notably the one she wore to the State Dinner for the president of Mexico.

Sophie Theallet has been designing her New York-based collection since 2007. Like Sophie herself, the clothes have a strong French accent, and also exude a freedom of spirit that transcends all borders. It is luxury clothing with a sense of meaning. Her talent has been celebrated by the fashion industry on its highest level. In 2009, she won the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund award. Her clothes grace the great style icon Michelle Obama and she enjoys the steadfast support of industry leaders such as Anna Wintour and Cathy Horyn. Born in Bagnéres de Bigorre on France’s South West coast, she is a graduate of Studio Bercot in Paris and has worked for Jean Paul Gaulthier and Azzedine Alaïa.

Conceived and organized by Arezoo Moseni, Design and Style is a new series of events featuring discussions and presentations by leading professionals in the design fields.