Isabel Toledo on Dressing First Lady for 2009 Inauguration


Cuban-born fashion designer Isabel Toledo's life changed four years ago when Michelle Obama wore one of her dresses during her husband's inauguration.

Toledo didn't know for sure if the First Lady was going to choose one of her designs (she had sent the White House a black and white option, as well as the two-piece lemongrass ensemble the First Lady ended up wearing.) As the inauguration ceremony began broadcasting on TV on that chilly January 2009 morning, Toledo's artist husband Ruben received a call from his mom. Then began the outpour of emails filled with requests to confirm if the dress was hers.

The Obamas were in church service, and Toledo couldn't see the dress on TV. She waited anxiously until the First Lady came out of church. "Then she walks out of the church and we realized, oh my God, it's my dress," Toledo said. She chose lemongrass because it's a color that is "optimistic, a color that represented change."

The swearing-in ceremony was one of the most watched broadcast events in history. "I dressed that moment," Toledo said enthusiastically. "I always say I compare myself to Betsy Ross," she said of the woman who made the first American flag, weaving a moment into cloth."It's a big honor, it's an amazing honor."

For Toledo it wasn't about the exposure and success that comes after designing the inauguration outfit, but about being a part of history. "The gift that I was given, I can't own it," Toledo said, sending good wishes to the lucky designer who will get to dress Michelle Obama at Monday's inauguration ceremony. "I can't hoard it, I think somebody else should really feel what I felt."

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