Bloggers and tweeters everywhere might refer to the annual White House Correspondent’s Dinner affectionately as Nerd Prom, but the fact of the matter is that it’s become a pretty stylish event. Over the years, more and more designers have found their names among the invitations, many of them favorites of First Lady Michelle Obama. Rachel Roy is one of those favorites and found herself sitting in the same room as the president, first lady and scores of important Washington people. We emailed with Roy after the dinner to get her take on dressing for the event, what she thinks of the first lady and what the president can do for the fashion industry.
1. Do you put any special consideration into what you’re wearing when you are dining with the President and First Lady, or do you dress as you would if you were dining with anyone else?
It was a great honor to be asked to the dinner by Glamour magazine and Cindi Leive. I wanted to wear something that felt strong, powerful, and feminine – something I strive for when I design all my collections – and something I think DC is becoming very well known for now – power women and fashion! The dress was actually the same dress I designed for a WWD story on what Mrs. Obama might consider wearing at the President’s swearing in ceremony. That dress was going to make it to DC one way or another! Color is also very important this season, so the blue I felt made a strong statement paired with eggplant shoes and a matte red lip.
2. What do you think of Michelle’s supposed “duty” to wear American designs, and her response that she “likes to wear what she likes”?
Mrs. Obama has a lot of “official” duties and I admire her honesty to say that she likes to wear what she likes! That’s the way it should be! She’s really makes fashion feel accessible to everyone and that is a great message to send. Fashion is a form of expression and everyone is free to express it how they wish and I think that’s exciting. That being said, the First Lady has been a great supporter of American designers and she’s really revived an interest in fashion across the country that we haven’t seen since the days of Jackie O.
3. What’s your professional opinion of the dress the First Lady wore at the Dinner?
I love that Mrs. Obama isn’t afraid to change up her look! I thought the dress was a beautiful color and the halter neckline wonderfully highlighted her best asset – those arms! The layered jewelry was my favorite part of the look – I love that strong statement and the texture and interest it gave. It made the simple silhouette of her dress look very modern. The curly hair was a change as well – I felt like the whole ensemble channeled
Marilyn Monroe a bit – an updated 40s look that felt fresh and today.
4. To what do you attribute the rise in fashion designers and fashion lovers being invited to official White House events like the Correspondents’ Dinner?
I think the dinner has become a grand collection of really interesting people from all industries and groups from across the country. Where once it might have seemed like a more politically driven event since it’s held in Washington DC, it’s now a great cross-section of people that are helping to shape and re-define this country every day. From Donald Trump to Jon Hamm to Cee-Lo Green, I love the eclectic mix and designers certainly add to the conversation in this country so I love that we are being included more in events like this.
5. What initiatives would you like to see the President take to help the American fashion industry?
Well, his wife is doing a great job helping put the spotlight on fashion and I would like to see the President help with the anti-counterfeiting issue with legislation. And it wouldn’t hurt to have him at Fashion Week…..maybe September?