In a week’s time, the question that has preoccupied style watchers for months will finally be answered. In the meantime, how about one final game of What-Will-Michelle-Obama-Wear-To-The-Inaugural-Ball?

Though her ultimate pick will almost certainly be an American, some of Canada’s top fashion designers agreed to play along in case the future first lady feels a sudden urge to do a little cross-border shopping.

Wayne Clark, David Dixon, Andy Thé-Anh and Joeffer Caoc have each sketched an original gown for Mrs. O to wear on Jan. 20 when she and the new president will play host to seven balls in Washington, D.C., and attend three others on the night he’s sworn in.

The first lady’s gown is typically long and ornate.

“There are periods when this dress is just covered in decoration — fringe and sequins and fur and beads and lace,” says Lisa Kathleen Graddy, curator of the First Ladies Exhibition at the Smithsonian Institution, where 14 inaugural dresses are on display.

Speculators predict Obama will spurn doodads in favour of a refined approach à la Jackie Kennedy in her simple, white Oleg Cassini dress. It had beading on the bodice but it was subtle beneath a chiffon overlay.

Mary Tomer, a 27-year-old account planner with British advertising agency Bartle Bogle Hegarty, has been tracking the future first lady’s style since the Democratic National Convention last summer. With backing from her employer, the Manhattan-based blogger launched a website,, that follows the whos and whats of Obama’s wardrobe.

For the inaugural ball, Tomer picks the New Jersey-born designer Narciso Rodriguez, whom Obama wore on election night — to mixed reviews.

“I know a lot of people are of the mind that it’s going to be a bold, jewel-toned colour,” Tomer says, “but my hunch is a winter white.”

Andy Thé-Anh
• “Usually we always think she should wear red or purple. I wanted to try something different.”
• The body of the dress is finished in an amber stretch satin charmeuse. The black bandeau top is in a satin taffeta. Flowing silk chiffon in a fiesta colour completes the draping.
• “I see her wearing something very contemporary, very modern but classy.”

Wayne Clark

• Clark channelled Halston for his interpretation of the inaugural gown. “She’s a very clean silhouette kind of person. I don’t see her in strapless but I thought one shoulder would be great for her.”
• The dress is finished in a four-ply, satin-back crepe cut on the bias. The ostrich feathers are part of a removable kimono jacket. “She can’t wear fur, or PETA will be all over her.”

David Dixon

• Dixon was inspired by Jacqueline Kennedy and Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, the first lady of France. “Oleg Cassini kept it very streamlined and simple for Jackie O. It was always very put-together.”
• The outer coat is a heavy silk taffeta in a matte finish — not too shiny. He notes the colour is flattering. “Bruni has worn a lot of that regal purple and so has Michelle Obama.”

Joeffer Caoc

• Caoc tries for an effect that will catch people off guard. “I think unexpected is a good word. As much as I wanted her husband to win, I didn’t think he would.”
• The overall look: “Really clean. No accessories. A reflection, pretty much, on what I do.” The boyfriend jacket is satin: the fuchsia dress is draped jersey. The colour combination is “really current and modern.”