Ellington Students Participate in White House Fashion Education Workshop Conference
For a Wednesday afternoon luncheon in the State Dining Room, first lady Michelle Obama wore a sleeveless navy dress with a full skirt and a fitted bodice. It had a racer-style back and a sensuous front that showed off her shoulders. The relatively simple frock didn’t carry the weight of an inaugural gown but it was particularly significant nonetheless, because it was the dress she chose to wear to the first White House fashion education workshop.
The event was organized by the East Wing with the aim of giving a leg up to aspiring fashion designers and stylists, writers and entrepreneurs from 14 East Coast high schools and colleges. A significant portion of Seventh Avenue came to Pennsylvania Avenue to give the students a pep talk, including Jason Wu, Tracy Reese, Narciso Rodriguez, Diane von Furstenberg, Thom Browne, Reed Krakoff and Prabal Gurung. But Obama’s dress made it clear just whom she wanted to be the stars of the day: the students.
Her dress was imagined by Natalya Koval, a student from New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology, who was the winner of a design competition. A second winner, Chelsea Chen, another FIT student, had her design — a color-blocked sleeveless dress in green, white and navy — displayed on stage.
“When it comes to the fashion industry, so often people think it’s all about catwalks and red carpets and ‘who wore it best,’ and whether some famous person wore the right belt with the right shoes,” Obama said in prepared remarks at a luncheon for the students and visiting designers. “But the truth is that the clothes you see in the magazine covers are really just the finished product in what is a very long, very complicated and very difficult process.” Then she reeled off a couple of numbers: Last year, Americans spent $350 billion on clothes and shoes. And 1.4 million Americans are employed in retail and fashion.
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