First Lady Michelle Obama (with French chairman François Hollande) stunned in a Carolina Herrera round gown in ~ February"s state dinner. (Evan Vucci/ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Michelle Obama"s fashionable garments has become something that a given in her five-plus years as an initial lady. Yet she wardrobe quiet is the topic of limitless public fascination and one long-simmering question: that pays for those incredible outfits?

It"s no small matter. Her high-low fashion options mix everyday, off-the-rack fare v custom creations from top developers whose gowns have the right to run into 5 figures.

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In recent weeks, Mrs. Obama has actually turned heads through a forest-green Naeem khan dress in ~ the opening of a brand-new costume gallery at new York"s urban Museum that Art. She shimmered in a silver Marchesa gown at the White house Correspondents" association Dinner. And also her flowered shirtdress for a Mother"s job tea in ~ the White home (recycled native an previously event) fight the simply right keep in mind for an audience of military moms.

that takes money to pull the off, month ~ month. Those 3 dresses by us could add up to an ext than $15,000 retail, not to mention accessories such as shoes and also jewelry.

The gaue won of the first lady"s wardrobe is miscellaneous the Obama White house is loath to discuss. It"s a subject that has bedeviled presidents and their wives for centuries. An initial ladies are expected to dress well, but the task doesn"t come with a clothes allowance or a salary.


an initial Lady Michelle Obama and first Lady the Fashion Anna Wintour with each other in one room? Obama cozied approximately Wintour at the city Museum of art on may 5, to christen the brand-new costume institute called after the famous Vogue editor. (David Handschuh/New York everyday News)

mary Todd Lincoln racked up tens of hundreds of dollars in apparel bills and considered marketing manure from the White residence grounds to salary them off, follow to the National very first Ladies" Library. Jacqueline Kennedy"s father-in-law stepped in come finance she Oleg Cassini wardrobe to keep clothing from ending up being a politics liability because that President man Kennedy. Nancy Reagan got grief because that borrowing designer gowns and also not always returning lock or reporting them together gifts.

Laura Bush, in her memoir, claimed she to be ``amazed by the sheer variety of designer clothes that ns was meant to buy"" as an initial lady.

because that starters, the Obamas reported adjusted income that $481,000 last year, and assets worth $1.8 million to $7 million.

"Mrs. Obama pays for her clothing. Because that official occasions of public or historical significance, such as a state visit, the an initial lady"s clothes may be given as a gift through a designer and also accepted on instead of of the U.S. Government. They space then stored by the national Archives.""


Obama"s floor-length gown by Jason Wu, i m sorry she wore come her first Inaugural round on Jan. 21, 2009, was later on donated to the Smithsonian museum. (Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images)

That saves Mrs. Obama significant money, back the White home refused to say how frequently the first lady wears donated clothes and also the nationwide Archives declined to to speak how numerous such items it has actually in storage. The White home did say that the an initial lady doesn"t borrow any clothing and, because that the many part, buys her own clothes.

The apparel donated by designers contains Mrs. Obama"s 2 inaugural gowns made by Jason Wu, a lesser-known designer before Mrs. Obama rotate him right into a star in the fashion firmament. Wu decreased to comment on how the works v the very first lady.

Mrs. Obama and Wu both to be there as soon as the first inaugural gown was presented to the Smithsonian in in march 2010. The an initial lady stated in her remarks: "The dress ns donated today, made by Jason Wu, is a masterpiece.""

but the Smithsonian lists the gown together a "gift of Jason Wu in honor of first lady"" Michelle Obama, making clean it came from him. The very first lady"s office had no comment on that.

2 other examples of gowns worn by the first lady that were donated through designers: the blue Carolina Herrera gown the Mrs. Obama wore to February"s state dinner for French chairman Francois Hollande and the yellow beaded Naeem khan gown the Mrs. Obama wore come the 2012 governors ball, now on display screen at the American Museum of natural History. Herrera and also Khan decreased comment.

The very first lady"s office had actually no discuss whether the couture gowns worn through Mrs. Obama for her six other White residence state dinners also were donated. Nor would certainly it to speak how numerous gowns have actually been donated because that the range of other big events because that which the an initial lady is intended to appear in couture finery, such together the yearly Kennedy center Honors ceremonies, governors" dinners and also White home correspondents" dinners.

Anita McBride, chief of staff to Laura shrub during she time as an initial lady, stated Mrs. Shrub paid for every her clothes, consisting of her 2 inaugural gowns: a red crystal-embroidered gown by Texan Michael Faircloth and a silver and blue V-neck development of Oscar de la Renta.


take it 2. Michelle Obama opted for a red Jason Wu gown at her husband’s second inauguration in January 2013. The chiffon dress is on display at the Smithsonian. (Jacquelyn Martin/AP)

McBride credits the Obama White house with recognize a cost-saving way to ``keep Mrs. Obama in all those significant clothes and to have the usage of them no once but multiple times.""

The expenses of a tradition couture gown have the right to be phenomenal, an especially if it is very embellished through something like beading.

new Yorker buy it Phillips, who designed Hillary Rodham Clinton"s 1993 inaugural gown, puts the full cost of that violet beaded lace sheath in the selection of $50,000, through the Presidential Inaugural Committee paying $10,000 and Phillips and also the workshop spanning the bulk of the costs. Phillips isn"t certain whether Clinton herself payment anything toward the dress, however the Smithsonian"s website explains the gown as a ``gift of Hillary Rodham Clinton and the Presidential Inaugural Committee.""

Lawyers who served in the Obama and Bush White Houses define taking care in working with the first lady"s office come ensure the arrangements with developers didn"t run afoul of ethics rules designed come guard against conflicts of interest and questionable quid pro quos.

beyond the unknowns around how often Mrs. Obama"s clothes are donated, there space questions about how lot she pays because that those she purchases.

In a 2011 Washington write-up story around Mrs. Obama"s personal assistant, Meredith Koop, the an initial lady"s office said Koop plot on Mrs. Obama"s behalf "in arranging for purchases, including considering the best offered price and also buying on discount if discounts room available.""

Several designers who have provided clothes for the very first lady decreased to talk about their arrangements. Yet given the prestige that comes with dressing Mrs. Obama, it"s widely thought that designers are eager to reduced the an initial lady a break. Former White residence lawyers said any kind of discounts detailed to the very first lady would have to be in line v what designers offer various other top customers to protect against being taken into consideration gifts.

Paco Underhill, author of ``What women Want: The science of female Shopping,"" claimed the markups on designer garments are "astronomical"" _ and the discounts deserve to be steep as well.

"Some of the program discounts that human being ask for room 40 percent off,"" that said. "Whether they get it is subject to somebody"s discretion.""

first ladies have tried every sorts of strategies to organize down their clothing costs, consisting of keeping part dresses in rotation.

Mrs. Obama wore the same dress come this year"s Mother"s job tea that she"d worn come lunch with Katy Perry in October 2012. She often switches approximately separates, belts and also other equipment to give clothes in her wardrobe a new look.

Mrs. Bush, in her memoir, speak of showing up at a TV studio and noticing a snapshot on the wall surface that verified she"d worn the exact same suit to her last interview there.

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"Quickly, i exchanged tops with my push secretary, so that it would seem together if i had an ext wardrobe variety,"" she recalled.