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NEW YORK (Reuters) - All ears were listening to President-elect Barack Obama's victory speech this week but fashion-watchers were looking closely at his wife Michelle's dress -- and the verdict was not so good.
Despite comparisons during the campaign to stylish 1960s first lady Jacqueline Kennedy, Michelle Obama was derided in opinion polls for her choice of a black and neon-red dress from Narciso Rodriguez's spring 2009 ready-to-wear collection.
In an online poll by USA Today, 65 percent of more than 10,000 readers believed the Harvard-educated corporate lawyer and future first lady "had an off day" and 35 percent said "She looks fantastic as always."
An online poll by People magazine mirrored those results, while a Los Angeles Times online poll found 45 percent hated the dress and 34 percent loved it.
"The normally impeccable Michelle O made a questionable choice for her husband's historic election night victory," wrote Lesley Scott, editor of fashion and lifestyle blog www.fashiontribes.com . "It's less than flattering."
"However, every fashionista worth her salt takes risks," Scott said, "which means the occasional misstep."
Not everyone disliked Obama's choice, which was shown on the catwalk only two months ago and is not yet available in stores. New York magazine hailed Obama for being able to hold her own against France's first lady Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, a former supermodel.
"We have a feeling she'll continue to mix affordable pieces with designer pieces as First Lady, but this wardrobe choice proves this woman knows fashion and we have an exciting four years of political fashion ahead of us," the magazine said.
"What will she choose for the inaugural ball? The suspense is so exciting! And you know what else is great about this? We don't have to envy France for Carla Bruni anymore!"
Interest in Obama's fashion has soared since she won particular praise for the purple sheath dress and black belt she wore in June when her husband clinched the nomination as the Democratic Party's presidential candidate.
While Republican candidate John McCain's wife Cindy and his vice presidential running mate Sarah Palin drew criticism for their high-end wardrobes, Obama won fans for affordable style.
Obama wore a $150 dress on "The View" talk show, which became an instant hit. For "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno" last week, she donned an outfit from chain store J.Crew.
She has even inspired a website -- www.mrs-o.org -- dedicated to taking "a regular look at what and who she's wearing" and encouraging enthusiasm for "the budding style icon, Mrs O."
Obama already has a fashion track record, appearing in Vogue and being named twice on Vanity Fair's international best-dressed list.
Editing by Mark Egan and John O'Callaghan