Just as Barack Obama employed the power of rhetorical callback in his farewell address in Chicago last night - ‘Yes we can, Yes we did’ he said, reminding the world of the slogan which encapsulated his 2008 Presidential campaign - so Michelle Obama created her own sense of symmetry by choosing a dress by Jason Wu for one of her last appearances as FLOTUS.
It was Wu who created the white, one-shouldered chiffon gown which Michelle wore for the first Inauguration Ball back in 2009, and to whom she has turned on countless occasions since then for everything from state dinner formality to smart-but-stylish daywear - as well as a second Inauguration gown in 2013.
A little over a week before she leaves the White House for the final time, Obama was understatedly elegant in a navy lace design by Wu - a designer born in Taiwan, raised in Canada, now living in New York - as she joined Barack and daughter Malia on stage after the speech.
The moment held similar poignancy and meaning to the First Lady’s own final speech last Friday, when she chose a dress by Narciso Rodriguez, an American designer of Cuban descent, who was also responsible for her look at one of her earliest moments in the spotlight, making the dress she wore on the night that her husband was first elected POTUS.
It is precisely this thoughtful recognition of fashion’s symbolic power which has made Michelle Obama so effective in her messaging throughout her eight years on the world stage.
In the early days, she portrayed a deftly democratic touch by wearing plenty of affordable (and American) brands like J.Crew. She made an early decision to support emerging domestic designers, wearing clothes by Wu and his New York contemporaries like Joseph Altuzarra, Thakoon and Proenza Schouler.
Then came designers from other countries, often worn as nods of diplomacy during foreign visits; Indian designer Naaem Khan was commissioned to create a gown for a state dinner with the Indian PM in 2009 while Brits like Christopher Kane, Roksanda and Preen were chosen during state visits to the UK.
There has been plenty of fashion bravery from Obama too. She caused controversy when she picked a fiery red Alexander McQueen dress for a Chinese state dinner in 2011, eschewing an American designer. And she has developed a love for Azzedine Alaia, the Tunisia-born, Paris-based designer whose collections are highly exclusive.
Towards the end of 2016, Obama had seemed to be moving even further from her policy of promoting American fashion, or choosing something with a political undertone. She wore dresses by Gucci twice; unashamedly maximalist and seemingly without any other agenda than ‘I really love this’. Ditto, a Dries Van Noten silk dress worn for the Presidential Medal of Freedom Ceremony.
She did, however, mix her experimental attitude with excellent diplomacy when she wore a gold chainmail gown by Versace for the final state dinner of the Obama presidency with Italy's Prime Minister Matteo Renzi in November.
Obama has been assisted in her wardrobe decisions by two women during her time at the White House. Chicago-based retailer and buyer Ikram Goldman was responsible for carefully honing her image in the early days and was instrumental in that first Jason Wu dress. But after a couple of years, Goldman’s protege Meredith Koop took on the role.
Goldman later told Vogue about the rather unorthodox delivery method which she used to get the Wu gown to Obama. “No one was allowed to see it. I go to Washington [D.C.], and I had the inauguration dress wrapped up in a tiny little bag in my backpack with her jewelry and everything she was going to wear that night. I walked with that dress crumpled up in my backpack to watch the President get sworn in,” she admitted.
"It was all so secretive," Jason Wu told The Telegraph last year. "I was watching on TV, just like everyone else, to see what she was going to wear. As a designer, you want to be in fashion magazines, you want to have great shows. But to be a part of history, and that particular moment, that was a once in a lifetime."
“She gave women the confidence to dress and express themselves in a way that made them feel comfortable, because she is an extraordinary, happy, and wonderful person,” Goldman added. “That exudes, and fashion just adds to it. You can’t have great fashion without a great attitude.”
In an interview with Harper’s Bazaar, Koop discussed how she and Obama had embarked on a project to bring a greater variety of designers into the ‘First Lady’ fold. "We really had to break that mold, highlighting designers from diverse backgrounds with varying levels of success and exposure became an important part of my role."
"When [the first lady] wears an up-and-coming designer, it creates this feeling that anything is possible,” she continued. “This is something the first lady talks a lot about with young people, how important it is to follow their dreams and work hard no matter what obstacles come their way. I wanted to translate that very message into her clothing."
So, what will Michelle Obama wear to leave the White House next week? Isabel Toledo would be the name which completes the trio of Narciso Rodriguez and Jason Wu. She was another of Obama’s favoured designers in the early days, creating the lime green suit which she wore to the President’s first swearing-in ceremony. Toledo also has a Cuban background, which could be a clever nod to the Obama administration’s success in repairing relations with the country.
Or perhaps Michelle Obama will surprise us and make a star of another on-the-rise designer one final time.