Michelle Obama’s Secret Style Weapon

“Not many people knew that I worked for her,” Ms. Rilling said. Relatively few know even now that she confected the delicately pleated gown, its colors intensifying from dusty pink to flame, that Mrs. Obama wore for the unveiling of her White House portrait.

Joining forces with Meredith Koop, Mrs. Obama’s longtime stylist, Ms. Rilling later fashioned portions of the wardrobe for the former first lady’s “Becoming” book tour. Late last year, as she promoted her book “The Light We Carry,” Mrs. Obama underwent something of a metamorphosis, switching out her corporate sheaths, tailored coats and high-heeled pumps for the relative ease of a denim pantsuit, a zebra print shirtdress and an array of Ms. Rilling’s subtly racy, one-shoulder bodysuits.

“She has become more casual, more adventurous, more approachable,” Ms. Rilling said. And perhaps more at home with the personal and collaborative nature of the fitting process. Ms. Rilling is, after all, taking the measure not just of a client’s waistline but of her needs and mood.

Mrs. Obama is appreciative. “It’s been a joy to work with Christy over the years,” she said in a statement. “She has a remarkable intuition for making me feel my best.”

Initially known as a tailor, Ms. Rilling traveled extensively with Vogue’s fashion team in the mid-aughts, shears and dressmaker pins at the ready, to help prep the magazine’s cover shoots. She soon expanded her skill set, tailoring pajamas, fashioning elaborately sculptured hats and stitching up red carpet gowns.

In 2019, she formally introduced her first custom collection, an 11-piece line of day and evening looks matched to bustiers, slips and other fragile underpinnings. Having been “in everyone’s closet since I started this business, I feel like I have an idea of what women want,” she told Vogue at the time. “People love sleeves, people love pockets, people love length.”

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