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First lady's gown is by Korean-American Chung

By Samantha Critchell
AP Fashion Writer / October 13, 2011

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Michelle Obama knows what she likes -- and flaunts it. For Thursday night's White House state dinner in honor of South Korean President Lee Myung-bak and his wife, Kim Yoon-ok, the first lady wore an asymmetrical purple gown by Korean-American designer Doo-Ri Chung.

It's a similar silhouette to the gowns Mrs. Obama wore to the inaugural balls in 2009 and to a state dinner with the Mexican president last year. But the bold, confident color made this gown seem new. She added a belt -- another one of her signature fashion statements.

"She looks spectacular and modern," said Joanna Coles, editor-in-chief of Marie Claire, "and her arms look incredible." (Mrs. Obama's biceps are quite famous: President Barack Obama once quipped at a dinner that her toned physique gave her "the right to bare arms.")

Coles said Chung, who is based in New York, was a good choice as a designer for this event. "Doo-Ri is someone who has done award ceremonies and the circuit. She knows how important it is for women to have a good dress in their arsenal."

After Mrs. Obama's casual look shopping recently at a suburban Target store, Coles said the formal gown was a nice reminder of why everyone cares so much about her contemporary style. "It's hard to think of a first lady that's so glamorous -- and I know it is a cliche -- but since the days of Camelot."

Earlier in the day, at an arrival ceremony on the South Lawn, Mrs. Obama wore an outfit from Chris Benz's resort collection. It was a suit with a cropped jacket and high-waist pencil skirt in a blue-and-black print.

"She's chosen print, which is very in -- she couldn't be more on trend," said Coles. "She's again chosen to rework the idea of the formal suit, the day suit that first ladies wear, in a very modern way."

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Associated Press writer Nancy Benac contributed to this report.