Project Beltway

The stylish Obamas may have nodded to the Reagans last night, but they still made the evening their own. Project Runway alums Laura Bennett and Jay McCarroll deconstruct the old school glamour, the modern classics—and Mariah Carey’s rhinestone microphone. VIEW OUR GALLERY.

Saul Loeb, AFP / Getty Images

Saul Loeb, AFP / Getty Images

HERE COMES THE FIRST LADY

Laura: It’s definitely the modern version of the John Galanos gown Nancy Reagan wore [in 1981]. But it has that technique with the raw edges on the flowers that is very modern: there’s softness and playfulness. And the white is very appropriate. She’s the bride, and tonight was all about a new beginning. Jay: I’m glad she went with Jason Wu as the designer because if she were to go with someone like Oscar De La Renta she would have been just like all the other First Ladies.

Saul Loeb, AFP / Getty Images

THE REAGAN EVOLUTION

Jay: It’s almost like he’s daring other people to wear white tie. There’s definitely a conscious decision about how to come at it with a fresh new approach, otherwise Obama would be wearing an old school Hollywood tuxedo, like Reagan. Laura: The white tie is very movie-star glamour; he’s carrying through with the image of someone who’s larger than life.

John Moore / Getty Images

MEET THE CARRINGTONS

Laura: It’s not a history-making dress. Jay: It’s old school. Jill Biden almost looks like she’s on Dynasty. With the hair she looks like Linda Evans, in a bad way. But I applaud her for its youthful silhouette. It’s colorful, it’s patriotic, her cleavage is out—can you imagine Laura Bush in this outfit? You know who would love this dress? Our very own Heidi Klum.

Brian Snyder / Reuters

SHE IS SASHA FIERCE?

Laura: I applaud her for getting a dress in the right size. She has a tendency to get a size too small. But I think this is a dress Michelle would’ve worn, she’s known for the crew neck, the boat neck. It’s a little old for Beyoncé. Jay: The platinum toward lavender is also too old for her. If you made it a v-neck it would be more effective. Laura: We’re just freaked out she’s all covered up!

Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

GLITTER: THE SEQUEL

Laura: Oh god, that rhinestone mike! And that lace looks so cheap and the dress doesn’t fit her. It could have been a beautiful dress with the black velvet carrying down. Put your hand over the bottom of the dress, she looks great. Jay: Mariah just hasn’t really evolved since 1987, she’s still stuck in the Butterfly years. It’s the microphone and the boobs, that’s it.

Win McNamee/Getty Images

GOOD HUMORED

Laura: Thank god will.i.am didn’t wear a white tie he would look like a waiter in heaven. Jay: Maybe a light pink shirt could’ve played it up a little more. Laura: I just think it should have been dressier, like a beautiful classic white tux shirt.

Brian Snyder / Reuters

JAMIE ROCKS

Laura: I’m not crazy about the black trim on that shawl collar. Jay: I actually like the Jamie Foxx. I almost feel like he’s reprising the role of Ray Charles. It’s all in his glasses. There has to be a shawl collar though because otherwise it’d be 1970s.

Elise Amendola / AP Photo

OFF KEY

Jay: Oh lord. Laura: I definitely see that Michelle has left an imprint on these younger girls. The color and coverage at the top is too mature for her—Michelle has almost carried off being youthful better than the girls channeling her. Jay: I wouldn’t say Alicia Keys ever hits the mark. Maybe if the dress were more A-line, and the cross-belts didn’t draw so much attention to her hips.

rian Snyder / Reuters

THEY DON’T LOVE LUCY

Laura: It’s too much going on, too many ruffles; it looks like someone repurposed a prairie dress. The fabric’s not even luxurious or dressy. Jay: I’m all for people expressing themselves and being avant garde, but the white is insulting. Laura: You don’t wear white to a wedding. It’s Michelle’s big day. Jay: She should’ve borrowed Mariah’s microphone.

Max Whittaker / Getty Images

DOUBLE DATE WITH HISTORY

Laura: I loved the fact that the women’s coats were in same value of color, yet totally different. Both of them chose really sort of strong bright colors to make a youthful statement. I loved the chartreuse. It made a very striking photograph. Jay: And I love that she wore J. Crew gloves. It’s her sort of attempt to be every woman, it sends a message to Middle America that you can wear the same gloves as Michelle Obama.

Bryan Snyder / Reuters

QUIPS DON’T LIE

Laura: Shakira, Shakira, Shakira. This is like exposed structure, or an exo-skeleton, but whatever it’s not working and probably because of that horrible stretch lace over it. Jay: At first I thought they were zippers. And zippers and black lace always make me think of Cher. I’m not opposed to seeing boning, but the fabrication looks cheap. Laura: Victoria’s Secret sale binge special gone wrong.

Max Whittaker / Getty Images

GET DOWN TONIGHT

Laura: Michelle looks stunning there in the background. Jay: They’re tired, but having fun. You know what I just realized—everyone is in black, white, or silver except Jill Biden. Laura: There really does seem to be a move toward respect for the occasion, a sort of reverence for these history-making moments. Except for Mariah. But we don’t really count her.