The Real Story Behind Michelle Obama’s Milly Portrait Gown


The spring 2017 dress that inspired Milly’s recent design for Michelle Obama

Throughout her eight years in the White House, designers like Derek Lam, Zac Posen, and Prabal Garung have enjoyed the distinct sartorial honor of dressing Michelle Obama.

But Monday Milly co-Founder and creative director Michelle Smith had perhaps the most historic honor yet: Designing the gown featured in the former first lady’s official portrait, which was unveiled yesterday at the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C. “I was humbled to be able to create such a special piece for such an intelligent and influential female, who also reflects such confidence, beauty, kindness and compassion,” Smith told



Smith’s sketch of her dress for Michelle Obama

Smith based the design off a piece from her spring 2017 collection, with a few subtle tweaks. “I used the same cotton poplin and minimal, geometric print to create something more conservative and modern,” she says. Smith’s revised design had a bow sash waist and a slightly fuller skirt.




“The outcome is minimal in shape, but has beautiful lace and draping details. I wanted to create a dress that reflected Mrs. Obama’s personality—bold and confident, yet approachable and relatable.”

The portrait gown wasn’t the first time Smith had dressed Obama; Meredith Koop, the former first lady’s stylist, had often reached out to Milly over the years. Most recently, Obama wore a Milly blouse on her final day in the White House.


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