Her time in The White House may be at an end (for now, at least!). But Michelle Obama’s title of the First Lady of Fashion is definitely still standing.

When Barrack Obama was elected as President in 2008, it wasn’t just his policies which came under scrutiny.

Michelle’s every move and every outfit also came under the microscope.

She conducted herself with dignity and poise, and her style reflected this, prompting many to describe her as the most stylish First Lady since Jackie O.

Michelle propelled many then little known designers into the spotlight, wearing the likes of Peter Pilotto, Jason Wu, St Erasmus and Thakoon.

But, she also had a penchant for the high street and was often seen wearing J Crew.

Michelle Obama book

Becoming Michelle Obama | 40plusstyle.comOne of the savviest women ever to grace The White House, Michelle says in her book “Becoming” that she knew that her choice of outfits would come under intense scrutiny.

Because she couldn’t change the fact that what she was wearing would always be of interest, she decided to “flip it on its head,” using her platform to showcase younger designers she believed needed a break. She said: “I have to wear fashion, fashion can’t wear me.”

She also talks in her book about walking a fine line between standing out and not being criticized for being “too showy”. That’s why she expertly mixed high end and high street.

So, what are the elements of Michelle’s style?

1. She likes to show off her arms and shoulders

Michelle has incredibly toned arms and shoulders, so I definitely don’t blame her for wanting to show them off.

She often chooses off-the-shoulder styles, strapless designs, sleeveless dresses and tops and pieces with cut-out designs or a one-shoulder design.

You will see with the white top below that her style has become increasingly daring.

Michelle Obama wearing tops that shows off her arms | 40plusstyle.com

2. She loves pant suits

Nothing gives a sense of presence more than a pant suit. She prefers a wide-legged style, and a jacket with a nipped in waist which reaches down past her hips.

After her time in The White House, Michelle has started to wear more wide-legged pants with a 70s vibe.

Michelle Obama wearing a white pantsuit | 40plusstyle.com

3. She is not afraid of color

Michelle has never been afraid of wearing bold colors. She’s been seen in beautiful teal shapes, deep jewel hues and brights such as purples, pinks, yellows and emerald.

This dress (below), combines her love of color and her signature fit and flare shape.

Michelle Obama wearing a bright pink dress | 40plusstyle.com

4. She is also not afraid of pattern

Michelle has never been a shrinking violet. She proved this time and time again with her adept way of public speaking. And, her confidence shone out in her style. She often likes to wear bold, bright floral prints.

Michelle Obama wearing floral patterned dresses | 40plusstyle.com

5. But, she likes monochrome too

Michelle often teamed black with white in stylish monochrome outfits. You will see (below) that she gives a simple black and white outfit a twist, quite literally, with her draped top.

Michelle Obama wearing monochrome outfits | 40plusstyle.com

6. She likes a retro shape

While she gives all of her outfits, a modern twist, Michelle is a fan of retro-style clothes.

She frequently wears fit-and-flare dresses with a voluminous shape, and boat-neck pieces. She also loves a smart pencil skirt. And, even though she likes to show off her arms, she will also cover up with 60s-style jackets and cardigans with three-quarter sleeves.

Michelle Obama retro-style outfits | 40plusstyle.com

7. She has become bolder since leaving the white house

While Michelle naturally kept her style very classy, sophisticated and relatively conventional to an extent while the First Lady, since leaving The White House, she has been experimenting with flowing fabrics and daring pieces such as thigh-high metallic boots that she wore for a sit-down with Sarah Jessica Parker.

Michelle Obama wearing a yellow outfit and high gold boots | 40plusstyle.com

8. Her casual style often includes jeans

It’s no secret that Michelle rocks a red carpet gown. But, she also dresses down on her days off. She likes to wear jeans with a nice top or sweater, wide-legged pants or a casual dress with sandals.

Michelle Obama wearing a casual outfit | 40plusstyle.com

9. She likes to wear a variety of heels and flats

She loves a classic pump, but Michelle also likes to wear flat shoes. She often chooses classic ballet flats as well as sandals, and white sneakers. She’s also been seen in Converse.

Michelle Obama's shoes | 40plusstyle.com

Michelle Obama style

While Michelle always rocked a retro vibe in The White House, wearing 50s and 60s-style silhouettes which prompted comparisons to Jackie O, she has turned her attention to the 70s in recent months while on her book tour, wearing belted blazers and wide-legged pants which have more than a nod to the 70s.

Michelle Obama wearing a tie blazer | 40plusstyle.com

How to get the Michelle Obama fashion look

While Michelle was often dressed formally in The White House, you can still get her look and give it a more casual feel. She was often seen wearing blouses with a pussy bow. You can wear your pussy bow blouse with a pencil or a flared skirt. Or, you could opt for a more casual feel with a pair of jeans.

Also, look for tops which show off your shoulders or arms. For a casual feel, Michelle also often wore preppy-style button-down shirts with jeans and Converse sneakers.

Michelle Obama tops

Michelle Obama inspired tops | 40plusstyle.com

iGenjun out shoulder shirt – Ted Baker London tie neck top – Cece tie neck ruffle blouseCurrent/Elliot stripe top 

Michelle Obama sweaters and cardigans

With her sweaters, Michelle generally made a choice of two styles. Either, she would wear a sweater which showed off her shoulders or she opted for a 60’s style cardigan to wear over fit-and-flare dresses.

Michelle Obama inspired cardigans and sweaters | 40plusstyle.com

Grace Karin cropped bolero – Dolman off the shoulder drape top – Ted Baker London metallic tee – Gal Meets Glam Collection cardigan 

Michelle Obama coats and jackets

Michelle loves showing off her figure with a belted swing coat. She also keeps to the retro style of her wardrobe with peplum-style jackets. You could wear these with either skirts or jeans.

For casual days, she likes to wear a long anorak which covers her hips, along with a pair of Converse sneakers.

Michelle Obama inspired outerwears | 40plusstyle.com

ForeMode swing coat – Halogen tweed jacket – Boden jacket – Eileen Fisher hooded nylon jacket

Michelle Obama pants

Her love of color often shines through in her choice of pants, but Michelle also likes to use neutrals and wear with a black or white top, or to offset her more colorful pieces.

She wears a variety of straight-leg, skinny and wide-legged styles. She usually keeps her skinnies for more casual days, and then wears wide-legged pants for dressed-up days.

Michelle Obama inspired pants| 40plusstyle.com

Nili Lotan crop pants – Leith wide legged pants – Chaus zip pocket pants – 7 for All Mankind skinny jeans 

Michelle Obama skirts

When it comes to skirts, the former First Lady tends to opt for one of two styles. Either, she chooses a ladylike pencil skirt.

Or, she opts for a flared style which shows off her slim waist. She likes to wear a bold print on her flared styles.

Michelle Obama inspired skirts | 40plusstyle.com

Rachel Coy a-line skirt – Boss pencil skirt – Halogen midi skirt – Kate Kasin pencil skirt 

Michelle Obama dresses

Again, Michelle tends to opt for one of two styles when it comes to her dresses. She either loves to show of her arms and shoulders with a one-shoulder, strapless or sleeveless option.

Or, she likes to wear a retro style. She likes both the 50s look of a fit-and-flare style, but she also likes to wear a 60s-style shift dress. She teams both with a cropped cardigan when she needs extra warmth or to cover her arms.

Michelle Obama inspired dresses | 40plusstyle.com

Harper Rose floral midi dress – J Crew sheath dress – Modcloth floral fit & flare dress – Kay Ungar one-shoulder jacquard gown – Boden sheath dress – Eliza J cocktail dress – Gal Meets Glam Collection fit & flare dress

Michelle Obama shoes

Michelle wore an incredible pair of Balenciaga boots for her recent book tour, but I can’t imagine over-the-knee gold sparkly boots would be worn too many times in day-to-day life, so I’ve included a gold pair of booties instead, for this Michelle Obama wardrobe capsule, which you can wear with skirts, dresses and pants.

She is not afraid of wearing flats with dresses. Because of her height (Michelle is 5’9”), she sometimes chooses to wear flats with a variety of outfits, from pants to dresses.

When she met foreign dignitaries, who were not as blessed as she is in the height department, she often wore flats so they didn’t feel uncomfortable or self-conscious when official photographs were taken.

Michelle loves a classic pump but she also loves to wear sandals and sneakers on her days off.

Michelle Obama inspired shoes | 40plusstyle.com

Matisse booties – Sam Edelman pumps – Clarks pumps – Sam Edelman pointy toe half d’orsay flat – Converse sneakers – Bella Vita slide sandals 

Michelle Obama handbags and accessories

As befits a First Lady, Michelle is often seen wearing a double strand of pearls.

She likes to emphasize her waist with a belt. She will often wear a wide belt over a dress or a narrower belt with a pencil skirt.

She wears a classic pair of drop earrings if wearing a formal evening gown, but she also mixes up her styles of jewelry on more casual days. I’ve seen her wearing hoop earrings and more contemporary styles.

When it comes to her handbags, she usually chooses a retro style with a contemporary twist.

Michelle Obama inspired accessories | 40plusstyle.com

Rebecca Minkoff leather satchel – Fratelli gloves – Nina swarovski teardrop earrings – Ellie Vail mini hoop earrings – 8 Other Reasons drop earrings – Cristabelle crystal collar necklace – Hook + Albert lapel flower brooch – Madewell leather belt – Madewell rainbow belt – Rebecca Minkoff metallic leather belt

9 Michelle Obama outfits using the pieces above

Here are 9 outfits for you using the pieces above. But there are plenty of different ways you could mix and match all of these pieces.

Read our ultimate guide to creating a capsule wardrobe that works best for you.

How to dress like Michelle Obama: a capsule wardrobe | 40plusstyle.com

Want more inspiration from other style icons for your style?

Be inspired by:

Are you inspired by Michelle Obama’s style? What do you like most about her style?

How to dress like Michelle Obama | 40plusstyle.com

Feature image shot by Miller Mobley

Photos from Harper’s Bazaars and InStyle


Sylvia is 40+style’s editor-in-chief and has been helping women find their unique style since 2011. An alumni of the School of Color and Design, she is devoted to empowering women of any age to look and feel their best. Read more about Sylvia and 40+style on this page.

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