Barack Obama may decide how to stimulate the economy, but it's Michelle who's teaching America how to look good in it, CNN reports. She's dumped the traditional first lady look for a "recession chic" fashion—a brazen mix of little-known designers like fellow Chicagoan Maria Pinto and bargain buys from J Crew and Target—that inspires everyday women and has jolted a slumping retail sector.
Along the way, Obama has raised the profiles of designers like Pinto, whose gowns approach $5,000. Pinto may clinch the honor of outfitting the first-lady-to-be at the inaugural ball. It's no surprise, since the designer shares her high-profile client's fashion sensibility: "A wardrobe has to be low-maintenance and still fulfill an element of beauty and longevity," Pinto says.