US President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama arrive at St. John's Church on January 21, 2013 in Washington, DC, hours before Obama participates in a ceremonial swearing in for a second term in office. (Photo by NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
Back in 2008, before she was first lady, Michelle Obama famously told Jay Leno about her habit of trawling J.Crew's website for "good stuff."
It seems she's still doing the shopping, even as one of the world's style icons: The retailer played no role in outfitting the first lady and daughters for the inaugural swearing-in ceremony. The company found out the family was attired in its accessories and clothes this morning, when the rest of America did.
"They purchase things and we don't know what's going on," says president and creative director Jenna Lyons from her home in New York. "Every once in a while we get a request for a specific size if something is sold out, but we don't go overboard for them in any way."
That said, "it's an incredible part of American history and to be a part of it is probably one of the most poignant honors I can imagine," Lyons says. "The first time we were over the moon. To be included again is incredible." Four years ago, the first lady wore olive J.Crew gloves, while Sasha and Malia wore the brand's bright coats and scarves.
This go-round, the clothes may have been mall-ready, but the first family nonetheless customized them: The original dark brown horn buttons on Malia's plum coat were swapped out for what looks like a gold rim. "I love that," Lyons says. "She looked at it and said, 'I want to do something that feels more like me.' "
But the standout piece is no doubt the first lady's bejeweled J.Crew belt, which she wound around her custom-made Thom Browne coat after the church service. "I think says a lot about who she is," Lyons says. "I love that she wanted to put her own stamp on it."
"I hope Thom is OK with it," Lyons adds. "I hope he's happy, too."
Obama may have added the belt, but for the swearing-in ceremony she kicked off her pale blue J.Crew kitten heels in exchange for a pair of black Reed Krakoff boots. "I'm actually really happy she did what she needed to do and made herself comfortable," says Lyons, who remembers wondering if Obama was shivering in her heels during the parade four years ago. "I was not sad. I'm happy she took care of herself."
Fans on the hunt for what the first family wore are in luck: Some pieces are still available online, including Malia's double-cloth Lady coat and electric blue Teddy dress and her mother's Valentina kitten heels.
That belt? It's sold out.
Olivia Barker, USA TODAY