Here's the special meaning behind Michelle Obama's official portrait gown

Michelle Obama's official portrait was unveiled inside the Smithsonian Museum -- and like her husband's, it was far from traditional.

Painted by artist Amy Sherald, the former FLOTUS is pictured sitting in a chair wearing a white halter gown with geometric shapes. The dress was a custom creation from American designer Michelle Smith of the label Milly, based on a look from her Spring 2017 collection.

Smith knew that Mrs. Obama would be wearing one of her dresses for a portrait six months ago, but she didn't know when exactly it would be unveiled. She got the call from her publicist while she was in Paris for work.

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Barack and Michelle Obama unveil official portraits at the National Portrait Gallery
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Barack and Michelle Obama unveil official portraits at the National Portrait Gallery
Former U.S. President Barack Obama and former first lady Michelle Obama stand with their portraits during an unveiling ceremony at the Smithsonian?s National Portrait Gallery in Washington, U.S., February 12, 2018. REUTERS/Jim Bourg
Artist Amy Sherald (R) and former first lady Michelle Obama participate in the unveiling of Mrs. Obama's portrait at the Smithsonian?s National Portrait Gallery in Washington, U.S., February 12, 2018. REUTERS/Jim Bourg
Artist Kehinde Wiley (L) and former U.S. President Barack Obama participate in the unveiling of Obama's portrait at the Smithsonian?s National Portrait Gallery in Washington, U.S., February 12, 2018. REUTERS/Jim Bourg
Artist Amy Sherald (R) and former first lady Michelle Obama participate in the unveiling of Mrs. Obama's portrait at the Smithsonian?s National Portrait Gallery in Washington, U.S., February 12, 2018. REUTERS/Jim Bourg
Former U.S. President Barack Obama arrives for the unveiling of his portrait and that of former first lady Michelle Obama at the Smithsonian?s National Portrait Gallery in Washington, U.S., February 12, 2018. REUTERS/Jim Bourg
Former U.S. President Barack Obama stands between painted portraits of himself and that of former first lady Michelle Obama during an unveiling ceremony at the Smithsonian?s National Portrait Gallery in Washington, U.S., February 12, 2018. REUTERS/Jim Bourg
Former U.S. President Barack Obama sits with former first lady Michelle Obama prior to the the unveiling of their portraits at the Smithsonian?s National Portrait Gallery in Washington, U.S., February 12, 2018. REUTERS/Jim Bourg
Former U.S. President Barack Obama holds hands with former first lady Michelle Obama prior to the the unveiling of their portraits at the Smithsonian?s National Portrait Gallery in Washington, U.S., February 12, 2018. REUTERS/Jim Bourg
Former U.S. President Barack Obama stands between painted portraits of himself and that of former first lady Michelle Obama during an unveiling ceremony at the Smithsonian?s National Portrait Gallery in Washington, U.S., February 12, 2018. REUTERS/Jim Bourg
Artists Amy Sherald (L) and Kehinde Wiley (R) gather with actor Tom Hanks prior to the unveiling of their painted portraits of former U.S. President Barack Obama and former first lady Michelle Obama at the Smithsonian?s National Portrait Gallery in Washington, U.S., February 12, 2018. REUTERS/Jim Bourg
Former U.S. President Barack Obama sits with former first lady Michelle Obama applaud during the unveiling of their portraits at the Smithsonian?s National Portrait Gallery in Washington, U.S., February 12, 2018. REUTERS/Jim Bourg
Former U.S. President Barack Obama sits with former first lady Michelle Obama prior to the the unveiling of their portraits at the Smithsonian?s National Portrait Gallery in Washington, U.S., February 12, 2018. REUTERS/Jim Bourg
Former U.S. President Barack Obama and former first lady Michelle Obama react to the crowd during an unveiling ceremony for their portraits at the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery in Washington, U.S., February 12, 2018. REUTERS/Jim Bourg
Former U.S. President Barack Obama greets artist Kehinde Wiley during the unveiling of his portrait at the Smithsonian?s National Portrait Gallery in Washington, U.S., February 12, 2018. REUTERS/Jim Bourg
Former U.S. President Barack Obama speaks during the unveiling of his portrait at the Smithsonian?s National Portrait Gallery in Washington, U.S., February 12, 2018. REUTERS/Jim Bourg
WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 12: Artist Kehinde Wiley, and Amy Sherald attend their official portrait unveiling of former U.S. President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama during a ceremony at the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery, on February 12, 2018 in Washington, DC. The portraits were commissioned by the Gallery, for Kehinde Wiley to create President Obama's portrait, and Amy Sherald that of Michelle Obama. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 12: Former U.S. Vice President Joseph Biden, (L), greets Craig Robinson, during the official portrait unveiling of former U.S. President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama, at the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery, on February 12, 2018 in Washington, DC. The portraits were commissioned by the Gallery, for Kehinde Wiley to create President Obama's portrait, and Amy Sherald that of Michelle Obama. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 12: Artist Amy Sherald is introduced during the official portrait unveiling of former U.S. President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama during a ceremony at the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery, on February 12, 2018 in Washington, DC. The portraits were commissioned by the Gallery, for Kehinde Wiley to create President Obama's portrait, and Amy Sherald that of Michelle Obama. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
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"I was in a shop buying jeans when my PR called. I started flipping out at the cash wrap," Smith said of her initial reaction.

As for the dress, the designer revealed that it's supposed to be one "that Mrs. Obama could wear in her everyday life, as well as in this iconic portrait."

She continued: "It’s made of a stretch cotton poplin print in a clean, minimal, geometric print without a reference to anything past or nostalgic, which gives the dress a very forward-thinking sensibility -- this is very Michelle Obama."

Many fashion experts wondered why Michelle didn't opt for Michael Kors or Jason Wu -- two luxury brands that she had worn many times as first lady. However, her decision to wear Milly reflects her legacy of approachability and sensibility. She was never afraid to mix budget-friendly labels like J. Crew with her pricier designer items. 

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All of Michelle Obama's state dinner dresses
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All of Michelle Obama's state dinner dresses
WASHINGTON - OCTOBER 18: US President Barack Obama (R) and First Lady Michelle Obama (2L) pose for the official picture with Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi (2R) and Italian First Lady Agnese Landini (L) prior to the state dinner at the White House on October 18, 2016 in Washington DC. President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama are hosting their final state dinner featuring celebrity chef Mario Batali and singer Gwen Stefani performing after dinner. (Photo by Shawn Thew - pool/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 18: U.S. President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama wait for the arrival of Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi and his wife Mrs. Agnese Landini, for a state dinner at the White House, October 18, 2016 in Washington, DC. President Obama is hosting the last state visit of his presidency. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama walk out to welcome Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi and his wife Agnese Landini on the North Portico of the White House before the state dinner in Washington on October 18, 2016. / AFP / YURI GRIPAS (Photo credit should read YURI GRIPAS/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama stands with First Lady Michelle Obama shortly before greeting Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his wife Gursharan Kaur at the North Portico of the White House November 24, 2009, as the Obamas host their first official State Dinner. AFP Photo/Nicholas Kamm (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama stands with First Lady Michelle Obama shortly before greeting Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his wife Gursharan Kaur at the North Portico of the White House November 24, 2009, as the Obamas host their first official State Dinner. AFP Photo/Nicholas Kamm (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC -MAY 19: President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama await the arrival of the Mexican President Felipe Calderon and Mrs. Margarita Zavala to this evenings State Dinner at the White House. Photos taken on May 19, 2010 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Marvin Joseph /The Washington Post via Getty Images) StaffPhoto imported to Merlin on Wed May 19 18:43:28 2010
WASHINGTON - MAY 19: First lady Michelle Obama and her husband U.S President Barack Obama wait for Mexican President Felipe Calderon and his wife Margarita Zavala to arrive for the State Dinner at the White House on May 19, 2010 in Washington, DC. President Obama welcomed President Calderon to the White House today for an official state visit that is taking place amid tension over immigration politics and Mexico's deadly drug war. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 19: U.S. President Barack Obama (R) and first lady Michelle Obama (L) welcome Chinese President Hu Jintao for a State dinner at the White House January 19, 2011 in Washington, DC. Obama and Hu met in the Oval Office earlier in the day. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Pool/Corbis via Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama arrive to greet Chinese President Hu Jintao upon his arrival on the North Portico of the White House in Washington, DC, January 19, 2011, prior to hosting a State Dinner. AFP PHOTO / Saul LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama (R) and First Lady Michelle Obama arrive to greet German Chancellor Angela Merkel and her husband Joachim Sauer (not in picture) at the North Portico of the White House in Washington, DC, on June 7, 2011 for the State Dinner. Obama warned Europe's debt crisis must not destabilize the global economy, as he laid on a lavish and warm White House welcome for Merkel. Obama said he and Merkel had extensive talks about the plight of debt-stricken Greece, which needs a second huge financial bailout, despite some reluctance from some eurozone members to stump up fresh funds. AFP Photo/Jewel Samad (Photo credit should read JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama (R) and First Lady Michelle Obama arrive to greet German Chancellor Angela Merkel and her husband Joachim Sauer (out of frame) at the North Portico of the White House in Washington, DC, June 7, 2011 for the State Dinner. Obama warned Europe's debt crisis must not destabilize the global economy, as he laid on a lavish and warm White House welcome for Merkel. Obama said he and Merkel had extensive talks about the plight of debt-stricken Greece, which needs a second huge financial bailout, despite some reluctance from some eurozone members to stump up fresh funds. AFP Photo/Saul Loeb (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/GettyImages)
WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 13: U.S. first lady Michelle Obama (L) and U.S. President Barack Obama wait for the arrival of South Korean President Lee Myung-bak and first lady Kim Yoon-ok on the North Portico of the White House before attending a state dinner October 13, 2011 in Washington, DC. Michelle Obama is wearing a dress designed by Korean-American Doo-Ri Chung. Earlier in the day, President Lee held a joint press conference with Obama and addressed a joint meeting of Congress. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
First Lady Michelle Obama walks with South Korean first lady Kim Yoon-ok in the Cross Hall as they arrive for a State Dinner at the White House in Washington, DC on October 13, 2011. The State Visit comes only a day after congress passed a free trade agreement with South Korea. (Photo by Roger L. Wollenberg/Pool/Corbis via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 14: U.S. President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama stand in the North Portico of the White House before attending a state dinner March 14, 2012 in Washington, DC. Earlier in the day, Prime Minter Cameron participated in a joint press conference with President Obama, topics included Afghanistan, Syria and Iran. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama await the arrival of British Prime Minister David Cameron and his wife, Samantha Cameron, prior to a State Dinner as part of an official visit on the North Portico of the White House in Washington, DC, March 14, 2012. AFP PHOTO / Saul LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama await the arrival of French President Francois Hollande 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)
US President Barack Obama and 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)
US President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle wait for the arrival of Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his wife Akie Abe at the North Portico of the White House on April 28, 2015 in Washington, DC. AFP PHOTO/MANDEL NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
US First Lady Michelle Obama (R) poses with Akie Abe, the wife of Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, upon arrival at the North Portico of the White House on April 28, 2015 in Washington, DC. AFP PHOTO/MANDEL NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 25: U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama and U.S. President Barack Obama wait on the North Portico for the arrival of Chinese President Xi Jinping and his wife Madame Peng Liyuan ahead of a state dinner at the White House September 25, 2015 in Washington, DC. Obama and Xi announced an agreement on curbing climate change and an understanding on cyber security. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 25: (L-R) Madame Peng Liyuan, U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama, Chinese President Xi Jinping and U.S. President Barack Obama pose for photographers on the North Portico ahead of a state dinner at the White House September 25, 2015 in Washington, DC. Obama and Xi announced an agreement on curbing climate change and an understanding on cyber security. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, D.C. â On Thursday, March 10, President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama wait for the arrival of Canada's Prime Minister and Mrs. Gregoire Trudeau for a State Dinner in the East Room of the White House. (Photo by Cheriss May/NurPhoto) (Photo by Cheriss May/NurPhoto/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, D.C. â On Thursday, March 10, from (l-r), Mrs. Gregoire Trudeau, First Lady Michelle Obama, Canada's Prime Minister, and President Barack Obama outside of the North Portico of the White House before the State Dinner in the East Room of the White House. (Photo by Cheriss May/NurPhoto) (Photo by Cheriss May/NurPhoto/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama pose with Nordic leaders and their spouses before a state dinner at the White House in Washington, DC, on May 13, 2016. / AFP / Nicholas Kamm (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama wait for Nordic leaders to arrive for a state dinner at the White House in Washington, DC, on May 13, 2016. / AFP / Nicholas Kamm (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - AUGUST 02: U.S. first lady Michelle Obama and U.S. President Barack Obama wait for the arrival of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong of Singapore and his wife Ho Ching on the North Portico of the White House August 2, 2016 in Washington, DC. The Obamas are hosting the prime minister and his wife for an official state dinner. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - AUGUST 02: U.S. first lady Michelle Obama and U.S. President Barack Obama wait for the arrival of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong of Singapore and his wife Ho Ching on the North Portico of the White House August 2, 2016 in Washington, DC. The Obamas are hosting the prime minister and his wife for an official state dinner. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
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"It’s up to Mrs. Obama to say why she chose this for the portrait, but I would say that it’s a very modern, emotional dress with a very womanly, very American spirit," Smith said. “The dress also reveals her arms, which I believe is groundbreaking and very modern for a portrait of the First Lady."

Smith has met Obama several times, including the former first couple's final party in the White House last January.

"It was the best night of my life. No phones were allowed inside, so everyone let loose, was in the moment, and had a wonderful time. No one wanted to leave. I think Andy [Oshrin, her husband and business partner] and I staggered out around 4 a.m."

For more on Michelle's portrait, watch the video above. 

 

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