First lady's state dinner gown by Carolina Herrera

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Michelle Obama's Caroline Herrera State Dinner gown
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First lady's state dinner gown by Carolina Herrera
First lady Michelle Obama, left, and President Barack Obama welcome French President François Hollande for a State Dinner at the North Portico of the White House on Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2014, in Washington. Lauding the "enduring alliance" between the United States and France, President Barack Obama on Tuesday welcomed President Francois Hollande to the White House for a lavish state visit. The highly anticipated trip is taking place amid swirling speculation on both sides of the Atlantic about problems in Hollande's personal life. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)
US President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama pose with French President Francois Hollande as he arrives for the State Dinner at the North Portico of the White House on February 11, 2014 in Washington, DC. AFP PHOTO/Mandel NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 11: US President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama walk out to greet French President Francois Hollande for a State Dinner at the South Portico of the White House in Washington, DC, on February 11, 2014. (Photo by Erkan Avci/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 11: US President Barack Obama (R) and First Lady Michelle Obama (C) welcome French President Francois Hollande (L) as he arrives for the State Dinner at the South Portico of the White House in Washington, DC, on February 11, 2014. (Photo by Erkan Avci/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
First lady Michelle Obama, left, and President Barack Obama wait for the arrival of French President François Hollande for a State Dinner at the North Portico of the White House on Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2014, in Washington. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)
First Lady Michelle Obama walks away from the Grand Staircase after posing for the official photo with President Barack Obama with French President Francois Hollande as they arrive for a State Dinner at the White House in Washington, Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2014. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
First lady Michelle Obama, left, and President Barack Obama wait for the arrival of French President François Hollande for a State Dinner at the North Portico of the White House on Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2014, in Washington. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)
First lady Michelle Obama, left, and President Barack Obama welcome French President François Hollande for a State Dinner at the North Portico of the White House on Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2014, in Washington. Lauding the "enduring alliance" between the United States and France, President Barack Obama on Tuesday welcomed President Francois Hollande to the White House for a lavish state visit. The highly anticipated trip is taking place amid swirling speculation on both sides of the Atlantic about problems in Hollande's personal life. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)
First lady Michelle Obama, left, and President Barack Obama wait for the arrival of French President François Hollande for a State Dinner at the North Portico of the White House on Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2014, in Washington. (AP Photo/ Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
First lady Michelle Obama, left, and President Barack Obama welcome French President François Hollande for a State Dinner at the North Portico of the White House on Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2014, in Washington. (AP Photo/ Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
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By CARYN ROUSSEAU

Michelle Obama chose a Venezuelan-American designer for the gown she wore Tuesday to the state dinner honoring French President Francois Hollande.

But the formal, ornate style of the sumptuous gown by Carolina Herrera reflected French aesthetics, from the intricate beaded black bodice, to the train and full skirt in a color called liberty blue, according to Susan Swimmer, author of "Michelle Obama: First Lady of Fashion and Style."

"From the White House to Versailles it's not that far," said Swimmer, who is also contributing fashion features editor for More magazine. "It's much more keeping in a French aesthetic than I've seen her wear before. It's very French in terms of how ornate it is and the use of lace and the velvet sash."

The gown featured a black, hand-sewn beaded embroidery applique scallop-edged top that came to Obama's elbows. The top went over a blue silk faille corset and long skirt with a train that billowed behind the first lady as she walked with President Barack Obama. It was matched with a black velvet belt. The color also echoed the blue color that both countries share in their flags.

First Lady's State Dinner Gown by Carolina Herrera

The White House confirmed it was a Herrera gown and Herrera took credit in a news release saying she made the dress at her New York atelier.

The first lady, however, is known for wearing silhouettes that are more sleek and glamorous. Take, for example, the strapless and sequined custom-made Naeem Khan column gown she wore to the state dinner for India in 2009.

Tuesday evening's dress had a vibe that was more couture and elegant, said Kate Betts, author of "Everyday Icon: Michelle Obama and the Power of Style."

"It's a very stately dress especially for her because she usually wears something much more streamlined," Betts said.

The dress also did something that's a bit of a rarity. It covered Michelle Obama's famously toned arms.

"I don't know that she's ever worn sleeves for a formal occasion," Swimmer said. "Why would she? She's got fabulous arms!"

The first lady had the fashion spotlight to herself during the evening's events. That's because Hollande was without a date after a very public breakup with his longtime girlfriend, Valerie Trierweiler. It meant the American president's wife was the center of attention, seated next to the tuxedoed French leader.

Michelle Obama is no stranger to Herrera's work. She's worn the designer before, as recently as a September luncheon in New York for the spouses of foreign dignitaries.

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