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Comparing candidates' wives' fashion: Not so bland

8:25 AM, Oct 16, 2012   |    comments
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US First Lady Michelle Obama (L) and Ann Romney (R), wife of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, embrace prior to their husbands' debate at Magness Arena at the University of Denver in Denver, Colorado, October 3, 2012. - After hundreds of campaign stops, $500 million in mostly negative ads and countless tit-for-tat attacks, President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney go head-to-head in their debut debate. (Photo: SAUL LOEB AFP/Getty Images)

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If the presidential candidates' clothes and appearance are safe and bland, nothing could be further from the truth about their wives. Michelle Obama and Ann Romney stand out on the campaign trail, and in a way that makes each stand out from the other.

Obama, 48, has been first lady for nearly four years and is well settled into the role. She established herself early on as someone willing to have fun and take risks with her clothes without moving past appropriate into wacky territory. Her style mixes high and low, costly and affordable, playful and serious. Plus, she has become a standard-bearer for American designers, especially emerging ones.

Romney, 63, a former first lady of Massachusetts, picks safe clothes, Republican country-club lady clothes. But she is far from bland - not in a chili pepper-red Oscar de la Renta at the Republican convention nor in lacy black leather on The Tonight Show.

Style expert Leah Chernikoff, executive editor of the Fashionista.com website, says Obama's and Romney's clothes and appearance reflect their authentic selves.

"Ann overall is sartorially safe and elegant, a pretty, Midwestern mom ideal," says Chernikoff. "Michelle is a magnetic person. She really seems to enjoy fashion. She takes risks, she tries things, she's exciting to watch."

While Obama is associated with a plethora of name designers, such as Jason Wu, Romney is linked only to an unknown, Alfred Fiandaca, a low-key New York-based designer with a couple of boutiques in Palm Beach and Boston, where Romney has been shopping off the rack for years. When he was tracked down by New York magazine and WWD, Fiandaca said he was happy being an unknown and does not expect nor desire to be Romney's Jason Wu if she becomes the next first lady.

One way to sum up the two women: Obama, who's moved easily among the boldfaced names at fashion pow-wows, appeared on the cover of Vogue - the only other first lady to grace the fashion bible cover besides Hillary Clinton. It's harder to imagine Romney posing there, even if her husband wins.

USA Today

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