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Fashionable first ladies meet up face to face

IT had been billed as one of the major face-offs of the NATO summit -- when two of the most scrutinized women on the planet, Michelle Obama and Carla Bruni Sarkozy, finally met, in the grandeur of an 18th-century palace in Strasbourg, France, on Friday.

"Fashion Face-off," wrote Britain's Guardian newspaper of the meeting between Mrs Obama and Bruni Sarkozy, wife of French President Nicolas Sarkozy. Others called it a "Style Summit" between "the First Ladies who Lunch." Women's Wear Daily wrote in an online update that the "much drumrolled First Lady fashion showdown" had confirmed that both women were "sticklers for their pet designers."

The meeting began with a friendly "Bonjour!" from Mrs Obama as the couples approached each other, then a French-style double-cheek kiss between the women.

Then it was time for the presidents to greet the opposing spouse. While Sarkozy and Mrs Obama kissed, the other pair did not, leading to a vigorous debate in the blogosphere: did Bruni Sarkozy suddenly turn shy and avoid a customary kiss from the US president?

Or was it Obama who hesitated? Or, more likely, did Bruni Sarkozy anticipate that Obama might hesitate and thus hesitate herself? Or did Obama ... well, never mind.

Because the focus was really on fashion. The women did not look exceedingly different.

Each wore a stylish but proper coat with a bow at the neck - for Mrs Obama a black silk number flecked with fuchsia flowers by Thakoon, one of her favorite designers, whose ivory tweed coat she wore to board Air Force One in Washington.

For the French First Lady, it was a gray coat by Dior, also a favorite. Both women removed their coats inside to reveal coordinated dresses - Bruni Sarkozy's in gray and Mrs Obama's in fuchsia. Mrs Obama wore kitten heels and Bruni Sarkozy wore flats - apparently to avoid towering over her husband.

Sasha Igleton, deputy fashion director of Glamor magazine thought both women looked elegant, but that Bruni Sarkozy, a former super model, may have toned down the flash too much.

"I'd prefer a little color with that beautiful tailoring," said Igleton.

As for Mrs Obama, Igleton especially liked the "gorgeous" fuchsia dress.

Although both first ladies are hailed for their sense of style, they are in most ways vastly different. The Italian-born Bruni Sarkozy, 41, was a celebrated super model and is still a songwriter and singer. She dated Mick Jagger and Eric Clapton and posed famously in the nude.

Mrs Obama, 45, is a Princeton and Harvard-educated lawyer who grew up on Chicago's south side and was a hospital executive until she stopped working while her husband campaigned for president.


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