How Michelle Obama Decides What to Wear, According to Her Stylist Meredith Koop
Michelle Obama learned early on in her husband's presidency that, whether she liked it or not, her fashion choices would always be a topic of conversation. "It seemed that my clothes mattered more to people than anything I had to say," she recently told the New York Times. "Optics governed more or less everything in the political world, and I factored this into every outfit."
Luckily, Obama found someone who could help her navigate that hornet's nest of hot takes: her longtime stylist, Meredith Koop. "I met Meredith when she was a young sales associate about a decade ago, and ever since, I’ve been blessed to have her by my side," she said. "She’s ridden with us through eight hectic years. She’s been a friend and mentor to our daughters."
Meredith Koop attending a gala in April 2018
Of course, Koop worked hard to earn that level of trust. She intuitively understood how Michelle Obama's look would be picked apart, and therefore how to guard against it. "You have to anticipate every avenue of attack and every possible outcome," Koop told the New York Times.
"I would try to make a case for things: This is why it makes sense, why this designer, this cut," Koop explained. "Then we'd ask, 'Do you like it?' And then we'd think about logistics: What surface are you walking on? How many events? Will you be sitting? Will you be standing?"
Oprah Winfrey and Michelle Obama at the start of her book tour on November 13, 2018
Koop didn't start from scratch—she was building upon a framework first conceived by her former employer, Ikram Goldman. (It was when she was working in Goldman's Chicago boutique that Koop met Obama.) Goldman identified a new way for a politician's wife to present herself: out with the jewel-toned skirted suits, and in with modern and American-designed fashions. She also advised Obama to wear accessibly-priced brands like J. Crew, as well as top-tier designs.
That's a lot to take into account. But Koop knows that these days, overthinking is almost a necessity. "It's so complicated now to be a woman," she said. "You want to be yourself, and you want to look good, but you don't want to be objectified, and you don’t want to wear a bag."
Michelle Obama unveils her official portrait with the artist behind it, Amy Sherald
Unfortunately for Michelle Obama, she won't have Koop around forever. "I don’t want to be styling people in five years," Koop admitted. She will, however, stick around for at least the duration of Obama's book tour.
And that recent ELLE cover? Yeah, that was Koop's work, too. It even has her tell-tale, down-to-earth ethos, albeit merged with the glossy magazine's vibe. As she wrote on Instagram, "fashion but make it relatable."
This story originally appeared on Townandcountrymag.com.
* Minor edits have been made by the Townandcountry.ph editors.