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Michelle Obama’s Official Portrait by Amy Sherald Apparently Features a Secret Political Message

Architectural Digest logo Architectural Digest 2/13/2018 Melissa Minton

a group of people standing in a room © Mark Wilson/Getty Images Former President Barack Obama and former first lady Michelle Obama were presented with their official portraits on Monday morning, and both made strong visual statements unlike those of any of their predecessors. Michelle Obama's portrait, which was painted by Baltimore-based artist Amy Sherald, features a voluminous dress that takes up a large portion of the canvas. The dress, which was inspired by a gown in Michelle Smith’s Spring 2017 Milly collection, reportedly contains a hidden political message that FLOTUS could stand behind. Speaking with The Washington Post, Smith said that for the collection that season, she was inspired by “desire for equality, equality in human rights, racial equality, LGBTQ equality." Details such as lacing and ties, which were a recurring theme in the collection, were meant to suggest a “feeling of being held back...that we’re not quite there yet.”

Smith reportedly allowed Michelle Obama to choose from many iterations of the original dress, and she chose a style very similar to the original, runway version; the design was open in back, while the version Obama wears is a bit more conservative. The fabric of the dress itself might also have a significant meaning to the nontraditional painting. Smith says the dress is made of cotton poplin, a durable fabric that might be used in workers' clothes. She said it looks “like couture, but it’s made out of something spartan.” Not to mention that there is a practicality down to the seams—even pockets are sewed into the dress. Obama delighted in the blue-white-and-gray painting, saying at the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery, “I’m thinking about young people, particularly…girls of color who will come to this place and they will look up and they will see an image of someone who looks like them on the wall.” The best praise, however, came from the former president himself, who thanked the artist for capturing his wife’s “grace, beauty, charm, and hotness.”

See the runway inspiration, below.

a person standing in front of a building © Victor Virgile/Gamma-Rapho/Getty Images

Related: 'Chasing Light' Offers an Incredibly Intimate Look at Michelle Obama as First Lady [Provided by Glamour]

Related Video: Michelle Obama Talks About the Power of Educated Girls [Provided by Glamour]

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