Earlier today, the official portraits of former President Barack and former first lady Michelle Obama were unveiled at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C. Their likenesses were painted, respectively, by the African-American artists Kehinde Wiley and Amy Sherald, who have both addressed race in their work.
The focal point of Michelle Obama’s portrait is a custom Milly dress designed by that label’s creative director, Michelle Smith.The flowing, floor-length stretch poplin gown features a graphic pattern with pops of colorful stripes against crisp black and white and was created by Smith explicitly for the portrait.
“I received the request to work on Mrs. Obama’s dress through her stylist, Meredith Koop, who I worked with several times to dress Mrs. Obama while she was in office,” Smith told THR exclusively. “I finalized a design that was loosely based off a silhouette from my spring 2017 runway collection. I set out to create a dress that could be worn in this iconic portrait, but also in Michelle Obama’s everyday life. My collections are inspired by the desire for equality, inclusiveness and breaking barriers.”
Smith adds that she reworked the runway dress “to create a silhouette for Michelle that felt fitting for her approachable and forward-thinking style. The dress is a more conservative version of the runway silhouette; it reveals her beautiful shoulders and arms, which is ground-breaking for a portrait of the First Lady.”
MY MOST AMAZING #MILLYMOMENT FOR ALL TIME! I’m so honored to announce that Former First Lady Michelle Obama is wearing a custom-made MILLY dress in her official portrait, painted by artist Amy Herald @asherald . The portrait will hang in the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery. I would like to express my deepest, sincerest thanks and love to @michelleobama @asherald and @meredithkoop for including me in this incredible moment which will endure for generations to come. I’m so honored that I get to be a little part of what was such a ground-breaking and positive presidency. The beautiful Obama legacy will endure. #obamaportraits
A post shared by MILLY Michelle Smith (@milly) on
“I am absolutely ecstatic to be a small part of the Obama legacy that was so inspirational and positive,” says Smith. “I am passionate about standing up for women’s rights and female empowerment through my platform and Mrs. Obama has been my ultimate role model. It is such an honor to create something for her. This is the most meaningful experience I’ve ever been a part of as a designer. The Obamas will forever be remembered for making great strides and I am so glad to be a small part of that. This honor further motivates me to continue creating beautiful clothes that make everyone who wears them feel empowered to stand up for postive changes in the world.”
And here’s what Michelle Obama had to say on Twitter on Monday: “As a young girl, even in my wildest dreams, I never could have imagined this moment. Nobody in my family has ever had a portrait — there are no portraits of the Robinsons or the Shields from the South Side of Chicago. This is all a little bit overwhelming, especially when I think about all of the young people who will visit the National Portrait Gallery and see this, including so many young girls and young girls of color who don’t often see their images displayed in beautiful and iconic ways. I am so proud to help make that kind of history. But the fact is that none of this would be possible without the extraordinary artist and woman behind this portrait, @asherald. Thank you, Amy – it was a joy to work with you and get to know you.”