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February 12, 2009
First lady Michelle Obama graces Vogue


ANNIE LEIBOVITZ / VOGUE

Michelle Obama is officially the first lady - and face - of fashion to all women, appearing on the cover of the March issue of Vogue.

It's nothing new for first ladies to be featured in the fashion magazine. It's been happening since Lou Hoover (except for poor Bess Truman). Obama, however, is only the second first lady to be featured on the cover. Hillary Rodham Clinton did so in 1998.

Obama (pictured) was photographed by none other than Annie Leibovitz. On the cover, she's wearing a magenta sheath dress by New York designer Jason Wu, who also created her one-shoulder inaugural gown.

Andre Leon Talley, Vogue's editor at large, conducted the interview, which, obviously because of press deadlines, took place before the actual swearing in. In his own one-on-one with CNN's Wolf Blitzer, Talley says the cover - and eight-page spread inside - reflects "her warmth, which comes from within. It's not about her being a fashion icon. ... It's just the naturalness and the grace of Michelle Obama. It's who she is."

Traditionally, most cover shoots are "styled." In other words, someone else, usually a fashion editor, selects the clothing. Not in this case. Talley says Obama picked not only the Wu dress but the outfits inside. Some of them came from her own closet, including several pieces from one of her favorite retailers, J.Crew. (Her daughers, Sasha and Malia, wore J.Crew Crewcuts designs on Inauguration Day.)

Also featured is designer Narcisco Rodriguez, whose black and red dress Obama wore on Election Night. It was perhaps that dress with the panels topped with a cardigan that has drawn the most raised eyebrows among fashion watchers.

Of the criticism? "In the end, someone will always not like what you wear - people have different tastes," Obama says in the article.

The first lady also talks about her primary role as "mom in chief" to her daughters. Talley says she has specific goals for the White House regarding entertaining and welcoming children.

"She wants to use the kitchen as the classroom for young urban kids to come and see how a kitchen works," he says.

Blitzer asked Talley to offer up one thing about Obama readers and viewers might not know:

"When she was on the train coming from Philadelphia to Washington (for the inauguration), ... her daughters spent two hours in the children's train decorating it to give their mother a surprise birthday party because she was turning 45 that day. ... She was surprised and led all the kids in a stomp dance singing a cappella.

"The first thing she said to me after the party was, 'I just said to Barack, this is nice, but who is going to clean up this mess. We can't leave Amtrak this mess.' "

Talley and friends helped clean up the train.

Check news stands for the issue, which is sure to be sold out. Subscribers should receive their copies sometime next week.


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