Web Exclusive: What will the First Lady be wearing?

(CNN) - Political junkies love the inauguration for its historical significance, but in fashion everyone wants to know-- who will Michelle Obama be wearing for the Inauguration.

We've seen over the past four years that the First Lady's choices matter.  One appearance in an outfit can make a designer's career overnight.

When First Lady Michelle Obama walked out on stage in that memorable white gown by Jason Wu.  Overnight, the designer became a household name.  "I mean I was screaming at the top of my lung, I mean It was like that's me," exclaimed Jason Wu. 

So, who will be the lucky one four years later?  "It's really brilliant what she's done in keeping it a secret, I have to say. In the previous administrations, while there was always interest in what the First Lady wore, there was never this kind of red carpet moment," says Eric Wilson, New York Times.

Sources close to the process say what started out as a 20-designer field for the inaugural gown has now whittled down to two.  Two designers who have a shot at worldwide fame.  So who are they? Likely a New York-based designer and quite possibly one that is emerging versus established.  Around Thanksgiving designers submit sketches.  Of those chosen, garments are made.  There are fittings and more fittings. The gowns are actually shuttled back and forth between New York and D.C. between fittings. And because these designers don't have direct access to the first lady they have mannequins made in her likeness that live in their studios. 

"Some people would compare it to dressing Anne Hathaway at the Golden Globes, but I would say it's more like if you dress every celebrity at the Golden Globes. It's that much exposure," says Eric Wilson, New York Times.

By one estimate a single appearance by the First Lady in a designer's clothes is worth $14 million dollars.  Tally up all of her public appearances for the year and that's a nearly $3 billion dollar boost to the fashion industry.

Take Jason Wu, since that moment, he's designed everything from a Target collection to candles to furniture.  But that's business.  What will the gown look like?  If the past is any guide, Mrs. Obama, with those famous arms tends to favor strapless and one-shoulder gowns, fitted at the waist and lots of color.  Sources say strapless is at least one option she's considering. 

Designers are mindful this piece of clothing is not just an outfit but a piece of history, too.  "You have to describe in this garment what she's feeling, the importance of the moment. I felt like Betsy Ross," says Isabel Toledo, Designer.

Designer Isabel Toledo gained fame after she dressed the First Lady at the swearing-in ceremony on inauguration morning.  "I didn't want to dress her for that evening of the ball, I wanted to do the Inauguration," says Toledo.  "Because that's the moment the whole world is a part of and the whole world was watching."

Which is why this time... "'Some people wanted to know are you going to be a part of it this time? I said no.'  There's nothing more important than seeing someone else have this gift and what they do with it," says Toledo.

Sources predict for the inauguration, the First Lady will not be wearing clothes off the rack, but made-to-measure, one-of-a-kind garments commissioned by the White House.


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