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Snowboots and Barbie Dresses at Mid-Atlantic Ball

Wyclef Jean performs at the Mid-Atlantic Ball. (Reuters/Mark Blinch)

Our colleague Holly Thomas reports:

In a chilly ballroom, the crowd at the Mid-Atlantic State Ball is warm and cuddly. Guests are dressed in everything from pink Barbie-esque confections to pantsuits to kimonos. By 6:35 p.m., two women have arrived in identical gowns. Guess they didn't check the dress registry.

The scene outside is chaotic for some ballgoers. Other guests breezed in with no problems. Others waited aimlessly in the cold for up to an hour. Overall the crowd is friendly, making quiet conversation, including one couple from Takoma Park.

Jennifer Haverkamp recounted her favorite moment of the day: "My favorite moment, after Obama was sworn in and people started leaving, there was this river of people going up 18th Street. We were like little penguins shuffling along. We could only shuffle and we went maybe a mile an hour, but everyone was in a good mood and it was amazing seeing so many people as far as you could see both ways and everyone in a good mood."

Noted a Democratic activist from New Jersey: "I wore sneakers and brought my uncomfortable shoes because I read in the Post not to worry about your shoes because no one can see you from the waist down -- but I can see people's shoes." The woman's daughter was wearing snowboots under her gown.

At 8:15, Wyclef Jean picks up an electric guitar and plays the first strain of "No Woman, No Cry." He raises his hand in his three-piece, pinstripe suit and says, "If you like Obama, let me see you put your hands in the air!" The crowd says nothing. Wyclef stars describing his day on the Mall: "I was out there in the cold this morning, bright and early...and I felt the energy at 12 o'clock." And now the crowd cheers.

Obama appears at the top of the stage at 11:22 p.m. to deafening shouts from the crowd and a sea of handheld cameras and cell phones. He reaches for Michelle's hand, gripping it between every wave to the crowd. They hold hands as long as possible until Obama begins speaking, saying, "You made possible what people said was impossible. If you can do it in an election, you can do it in this administration."

The first strains of "At Last" play, and Obama says, "Now I want to dance with somebody who's been doing everything I've been doing, except she does it in heels." They dance very slowly, very closely, almost hugging at points, and talk quietly almost the entire time.

She adjusts the train of her dress every few seconds, and Obama spins her carefully once, grinning at the crowd. He closes with, "Let's go change America," and Michelle fusses with her dress as they take their last steps off of the stage.

By Web Politics Editor  |  January 20, 2009; 11:00 PM ET
Categories:  Parties  
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Michelle Obama is in desperate need of a stylist. Her choice for the daytime ceremony was inappropriate at best. Sequins? Not until cocktail hour or later.

Tonight's ballgown looks like my grandmother's chenille bedspread from the 1950's. Yikes. Michelle keeps tugging the gown constantly. A train? What a nightmare. Michelle must be so uncomfortable. I agree with the CNN commentator who said it appears that the strap was sewn on at the last minute. Tacky, very tacky.

The entire day has been a major disappointment. No class. The entire "ceremony" was less than dignified. Very, very disappointing.

From the poor choice of anti gay, anti woman, creepy fundy freak Rick Warren, to the botchd National Anthem by way, way past her prime, Aretha Franklin in a crazy, tacky hat, to the flubbed up oath of office by Obama and Roberts, to the less than inspiring speech by Obama, to the racist Rev. Lowry, to the weired "poet", to the rude attendees who booed Pres. Bush, the ENTIRE EVENT WAS JUST NOT CLASSY!

I am a Democrat and I am embarrassed. If this is the best Obama's got he's going to be a one termer.

The fawning media is embarrassing itself again.

I celebrate the color barrier being broken today. That's it. I wanted Hillary to be President. I wanted the gender barrier broken.

The "celebrities" are tacky too. The ratty looking outfits, the unshaven men, ugh. The catty anti-Bush comments. The so-called "creative coalition" is anything but. They ALL have the same talking points. Pitiful. "Hollywood" has NO glam anymore.

I DO celebrate the color barrier being broken. It's important. Let's raise a glass to that!

I wish this nation well.

Hillary 2012!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Posted by: TAH1 | January 20, 2009 11:35 PM | Report abuse

Tah1, my goodness, get over yourself and your self-appointed fashion/taste police status. You're worried about sequins before cocktail hour? Such comments belong to a previous era, when we were called upon to shop for our country, rather than serve. Sorry you didn't find it a "classy" spectacle, since it transcended class division and spectacle entirely. I think Michelle Obama has more important things to do than consult expensive consultants about the bloody clothes she wears. So much for your desire to break the gender barrier. Go tell it to the country club crowd, that's where your comment sounds like it belongs.

Posted by: deacone | January 21, 2009 12:28 AM | Report abuse

@TAH1: You Deadenders need to get a life!

My home was filled with 11 young people who came from all over the country for this wonderful event. They took time off school (knowing they will have to make up work next week) and took 10 hour trips to get here for the Inauguration. They got up before dawn for the Concert on Sunday, rented tuxedos and put on their first real Ball gowns with joy and enthusiasm. They endured a crowed of 2 million fellow celebrants, rising again at dawn, clutching their hard-won Swearing-In tickets, walking several miles to see the president they admired be sworn in. Later, they retured, excitedly talking about the speech and their happiness about being included in this historic celebration.

Your comment was so bitter and silly that I considered not responding -- but I just couldn't let it pass by.

Let it go. Hillary has; she will most likely go down as one of the most celebrated Secretaries of State in history and she and President Obama restore American stature and moral authority around the world.

And YOU are bitching about Aretha Franklin's hat? And Michelle Obama's "fashion sense?" Though, while we are discussing it -- what in the hell was that bright blue blanket thing that Hillary had draped over her shoulders? YUCK!!!!

You are pathetic and small. Obama promised to end torture and all the illegal acts of the Bush Regime. And you moan about Michelle "tugging at her gown."

Good God Hillary PUMA, get a grip and get your priorities straight.

This day was about the future. Not about the bitterness people like you feel about the past.

Posted by: rebeccajm | January 21, 2009 12:31 AM | Report abuse

I disagree with the previous poster. I thought all went well in the ceremony and inauguration and the rest of the day. Bush is a swine and the world knows it. He deserves every boo and shoe tossed his way. As for your thoughtful comments regarding Hillary --- give it a rest. She is lucky to have a job. She lost the nomination because she could not manage her way out of a paper bag. No one who ran as disasterous a campaign as did Hillary Clinton deserves to be anywhere near the seat of power ---- remember a person can be intelligent and not able to manage other people -- that is Hillary. She is lucky to have a job in the Executive branch.

As to remarks about being "catty" --- go look in the mirror.

Posted by: gandalfthegrey | January 21, 2009 12:40 AM | Report abuse

I admire women who have the courage to wear sequins and rhinestones in the morning as it usually means they've been up all night.
But chiffon ruffles after 5 pm, in the winter??? At least she left the matching parasol at home!

Posted by: algebra1 | January 21, 2009 3:09 AM | Report abuse

Michelle Obama's gorgeous day dress/jacket was BROCADE, not sequins. She is elegant and fashion forward. She is modern and elegant. The dress, nearly every fashion expert agreed, was magnificent. The color not yellow, nor green. The cool green gloves and shoes, She is a trendsetter without being trendy. She loves clothes. She loves fashion. Elegant and modern and very appropriate for the day...Heavy wool lace. Any true fashion lover could see it wasn't sequins....I would bet a million dollars that TAH1 hasn't a fashionable bone in her body, except in her own mind!!

Posted by: wordplayer18 | January 21, 2009 5:38 AM | Report abuse

TAH1, Give me a break! This day was a day of change! Instead of the status quo that is expected, Pres. Obama and his wife, Michelle have embraced change in every aspect including fashion. Her dress was very appropiate for the day and the time. As for the ball gown, it was the perfect choice! I saw this as a marriage between Barack Obama and the US --- and Michelle symbolically looked like a fresh bride at the ball! You watch the 'copycats'...someone will have this walking down the aisle. You sound bitter and like you wanted to find something to pick at --- do your nose and join Campbell Brown on No Bias No Bull with the bull that you have posted!

Posted by: kda0316 | January 21, 2009 9:02 AM | Report abuse

The daytime dress wasn't sequined, and it was great. The ceremony had some glitches, but I kind of liked it for that. It made it more human, and you got the sense that these were real people, not just political operators.

And I did expect a more "rousing" speech, but actually I thought what he said was really good, in retrospect. It all came together with the "time to put away childish things" line. Criticism during the campaign was that all Obama could do was give speeches. The only *good* thing Bush has done in 8 years is throw out some one-liner applause lines and perform a few good speeches (his first State of the Union, the National Cathedral address after 9/11).

Truth be told, this was not a great speech per se. But it was a clear message that Obama's there to do a job, and he plans to actually do it, and he expects us all to help, because that's what citizens of a free nation do. I thought it was great.

Booing Bush and a few celeb's snarky comments *were* low class. Raucous applause wasn't called for, if you don't like the guy. Booing? Low class. (No way around that one).

And let's face it, the inaugural gown *did* look like a little like a bedspread. TAH1 may be bitter and biased, but you've got to admit that gown was no home run. The best I can say for it is that maybe it looked better in person?

On the other hand, Hillary Clinton's first inaugural gown was a lacy, purple, belted fashion disaster (and it *didn't* look better in person. I know, I was there). But Hil looked pretty awesome the second time around. So we'll have to wait and see what Michelle wears to the parties in 2012 :)

Posted by: jennybean1 | January 21, 2009 12:42 PM | Report abuse


Bush did not deserve every boo he got. He may not have been our best president, but he was a president in a very difficult time. You can hardly put yourself in his shoes and say you would have made better choices after 9/11.

Booing a man who has dedicated 8 years of his life to leading your country is incredibly low class, innapropriate, and unacceptable.

And Michelle's dress did nothing for her. She is a tall, thin, beautiful woman who can pull off many shapes and colors, yet she went with a fluffy contraption with an awkward strap that made it resemblant of Bjork's Swan dress.

Posted by: JRJacks | January 21, 2009 1:01 PM | Report abuse

Mrs. Obama's Inauguration dress looked like it belonged to England's late Queen Mother for a 4pm June wedding, but she forgot her hat. Inappropriate color, cut, fit, fabric and accessories. Her Ball dress was equally out of step but in the other direction - an immature cross of bridal and prom. Ditto for the long sparkly earrings.

Jill Biden was decent from the waist up during the day but the coat was too bright red and if she wanted to do the boots she should have worn a long skirt. Bare hose and knee boots in that setting were simply exhibitionist. At night, the red strapless gown was fine but needed a shoulder jacket or wrap. Again, too much skin, especially when already wearing look-at-me red.

Posted by: CherylNH | January 21, 2009 7:00 PM | Report abuse

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