The dress itself doesn't come as much of a shock: a rich ruby chiffon and velvet floor-length custom gown, with a flowing skirt and a neckline that shows off her famously toned arms and shoulders is right up FLOTUS's alley.
Instead, the surprise was in her choice of designer--or rather, her repeat choice. The first lady has become known for launching (or at least jump starting) the careers of young, relatively unknown designers, including Jason Wu at the inaugural balls four years ago.
Many expected she would continue with her pattern of introducing the world to a new designer, plucking an unfamiliar face out of the crowd and handing him or her instant fame and success, and were thrown when she went with a repeat choice.
Fashion Journalist Robin Givhan tells Anderson Cooper she was "gobsmacked" over Michelle's Jason Wu choice— KelaWalker (@KelaWalker) January 22, 2013
Jason Wu seems to drop a baller gown about as often as the Clan drops a new album.Just sayin.— Matt Barash (@mjbarash) January 22, 2013
Michelle Obama & Jason Wu. Yet again. Michelle Obama & Red halter. Yet again. wwd.us/13YoXxQ— aradhika mehta (@aradhikamehta) January 22, 2013
First Lady in Red: We may as well start calling Jason Wu FDOTUS. After wearing Thom Browne and Reed Krakoff to P... stylem.ag/UNEsDX— Fashion Women (@FashionWomen2) January 22, 2013
Still the reaction to the dress itself was positive, and Wu was gracious, tweeting "#inshock!" to his followers after the big reveal.
#Inshock!!!— Jason Wu (@JasonWu) January 22, 2013
Obama helped turn Wu's into a household name when she selected his design--a cream-colored, one-shouldered gown --for President Obama's first inauguration. He has since seen wide success in dressing celebrities for high-profile events and broadened his appeal to include an affordable line for Target.
The first lady reportedly had 15 designers send dresses her way, and, as in 2009, they found out which gown she had chosen only when she appeared on television wearing it on inauguration day.
But Obama has been a regular customer of Wu's while in the White House, wearing his designs to several high-profile events, including a visit with Queen Elizabeth and on the cover of Vogue.
And she may have helped launch a designer's career this year anyway, with the success of the Thom Browne coat and dress she wore during the swearing-in ceremonies.
The March 2009 Vogue cover was shot by Annie Leibovitz.