10 official balls and the gown of a million speculations

  • Article by: Associated Press
  • Updated: January 20, 2009 - 11:35 PM

Revelers in black tie and gowns toasted Barack Obama on his first night as president. And at least a dozen other unofficial balls, partiers celebrated even without the promise of an appearance by the country's glamorous new first couple.

First of all, how good-looking is my wife?" President Obama asked the crowd of celebrities and supporters at the Neighborhood Ball, the first of 10 inaugural celebrations they planned to attend Tuesday evening. Obama and his wife, Michelle, glided through their first inaugural dance to the Etta James classic "At Last," sung by none other than Beyoncé.

The president pulled his wife close and they danced a slow, dignified two-step and he spun the First Lady once in a half-turn.

Later, he cut loose in a faster groove as Shakira, Mary J. Blige, Faith Hill and Mariah Carey sang along with Stevie Wonder to his "Sign, Sealed, Delivered," a song played at nearly every one of Obama's rallies during the campaign.

The president wore a white tie, while Michelle shimmered in a white, one-shouldered, floor-length gown. It was embellished from top to bottom with white floral details.

Designed by 26-year-old Jason Wu, much loved in the fashion world but otherwise not well known, the gathered-skirt gown was surprising for its reserve given Michelle Obama's love of jewel tones and sleek silhouettes. Yet it was unconventional, too, exposing her much-remarked-upon, well-toned arms. And it will find its place in history, because it will be donated to the Smithsonian.

Earlier in the day, Michelle Obama won applause from style-watchers for the sparkling yellow sheath dress with matching coat by Cuban-born American designer Isabel Toledo that she wore to the swearing-in and parade.

The first lady's selection of Wu and Toledo demonstrates one of the reasons she has fascinated the fashion world.

"Her support means so much to designers who can't afford to advertise," said Nicole Phelps, executive editor at Style.com.

For his part, the Vice President went for laughs. Joe Biden joked about his two left feet at multiple balls Tuesday night.

But dance he did, stiffly, with wife, Jill, to "Have I Told You Lately," at the Neighborhood Ball.

"I may not be able to dance, but I sure like holding her," he said.

The president told the assembled crowd: "I hope all of you will remember what this campaign and hopefully this presidency is all about," Obama said. "It's about you, pitching in, working together, trying to get past our differences in order to create the kind of world we want to pass on to our children and America."

ASSOCIATED PRESS

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