(Photos from left: Moses Robinson/Getty Images, Courtesy Simmon and Schuster Publishing)
Michelle Obama's flair for style is undeniable. The first lady is clear about what works for her and has even made some of her fashion picks accessible to those who look up to her for inspiration. Now with the release of style and lifestyle expert Mikki Taylor's Commander in Chic: Every Woman's Guide to Managing Her Style Like a First Lady, fashionistas have a how-to guide for achieving the classic first lady's look from the inside out.
As Essence's beauty and cover director for 30 years before becoming the magazine's Editor-at-Large, Taylor has worked with Michelle on multiple occasions over the years and was the force behind the iconic 2008 Essence cover of the Obama family. But Taylor had already deemed Michelle as "a standout" and a "woman to watch" when she first appeared on the political scene alongside her husband in 2006.
"What I learned from the time I spent with her is that hers is a formula or a philosophy rather that I felt every woman could embrace," Taylor explains. "Most of us never dreamed we'd see an African-American first lady in the White House or anyone who looked like us so she has just become an aspirational icon and women everywhere want to emulate her strong sensibility. From the way she turns herself out and looking polished and fabulous to the way she conducts herself to even the amount of spiritual muscle that she has dealing with naysayers. And so on every level she has become the woman to watch and the example to follow. Everybody feels as though they know Michelle Obama well and that's because women love her, they admire her and because she is so comfortable in her skin."
Among the pieces in Michelle's dress code that would serve any woman well are a great cardigan, a pencil skirt, fluid flare pants, kitten heels, and chemise, fitted sheath, and A-line shift dresses in a variety of colors, patterns and texture. And you'll often see Michelle stepping off Air Force One ready to go in her little black dress, Taylor points out.
"If you add these items to your wardrobe you would never have to worry about what to wear again because not only do they add mileage to your wardrobe, but with accessories you are able to bring new perfection to these existing pieces," she adds. "And it's not so much about quantity. I say it's about quality, but do buy quality in multiples and that's something that she does."
Now in her "all-access code of dressing," Taylor not only offers women ways to get Michelle's looks — and without breaking the bank — she also gives tips on how to cultivate a classic wardrobe, and explains how the first lady nourishes her style from the inside out. It's no secret that Michelle makes health a top priority and is passionate about getting our children and families moving and eating better, so Taylor offers fitness routines for women of every age as well as how Michelle stays toned and fit through weight-lifting and cardio.
"It's no easier for Michelle Obama to get up before the sun to work out than it is for any of us, but she does it because she deems it important and she makes it a part of her day," Taylor says. "She makes healthful eating a part of her day. So she's not only talking the talk, but she's walking the walk."
"It helps to be a little vain when it comes to mastering good health," she continues. "I really do want you to drop the excuses and pick up the weights. I really do want you to own your health and well-being. That's part of the picture of great style. Because at the end of the day what's fabulous is getting older, but not old."
Speaking of fabulous, now that the holidays are upon us and the party invites are sure to start rolling in, Taylor shared her tips for ending out the year looking your absolute best. The little black dress, for instance, is "a great wardrobe multitasker" that gives you flexibility when moving from day to night (for those after-work events) and pairing your LBDs with accessories can really breathe new life into your options.
"Evening separates also give you a lot of mileage when it comes to getting dressed for evening so it's not always about the single great dress. If you are a person who's on the go a lot during the holidays and you want to accept all those invitations, then evening separates are your best bet," she suggests.
In February 2012, Taylor will release a set of nail lacquers called the Forever Nude Collection by Mikki Taylor that's geared towards women of color and our varying skin tones. But for now, she'll continue to promote Commander in Chic and her goal to "inform, inspire and simplify our lives" so that we can focus our energy on making moves and shaping our world instead.
"I wrote the book because I want every woman to be the Commander in Chic of their life," Taylor says. "And what does that mean? It means that you own your life and you master your life with distinction, something Michelle Obama does very well. And when I use the term style, I don't mean only in how she looks, but it's how she lives her life, how she applies herself, that bravado that she brings to everything that she touches, what she's passionate about, how she knows what works for her and what doesn't. Those are just characteristics that I want every woman to have."
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