Annie Leibovitz / Vogue
With her third and final Vogue cover as First Lady, Michelle Obama is offering some parting words on wardrobe and the White House.
Since moving her clothes into 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, the 52-year-old lawyer and mother of two has redefined first lady fashion in her eight years as the Commander-in-Chief's right-hand woman. Between giving sartorial unknowns a try to making a splash in bold styles, Obama has left behind a legacy of distinct modern couture—but not without comfort first.
"It all boils down to comfort level: If I'm going to make you comfortable, then I have to be comfortable first," she said in the December issue of Vogue. "So my first reaction isn't 'Who made this?' But 'Let's try it on. What does it look like?...There are definitely designers that I love, people I love to work with. And who they are as people matters. Are they good people? Do they treat their staff well? Do they treat my staff well? Are they young? Can I give them a boost? But! When all of that is equal . . . is it cute?!"
The candid response is a subtle reminder that the Chicago native with little political experience before her husband's 2008 election sought out to be a first lady all her own.
"Everything we do is by choice," she said of the role. "I could have spent eight years doing anything, and at some level, it would have been fine. I could have focused on flowers. I could have focused on decor. I could have focused on entertainment. Because any first lady, rightfully, gets to define her role. There's no legislative authority; you're not elected. And that's a wonderful gift of freedom."
With a newly elected replacement and less than three months until Donald Trump's inauguration, FLOTUS catches herself looking at daily life with sentimental eyes.
"You know, there are little . . . moments. Even today I was looking out at this view here...looking out on the South Lawn and the Washington Monument and it had just rained and the grass was really green and everything popped a little bit more. It's soooo beautiful. And for that moment I thought, I'm going to miss waking up to this, having access to this anytime I want," she told the magazine.
"But on the flip side . . . it's time. I think our democracy has it exactly right: two terms, eight years. It's enough," she told the magazine. "The nature of living in the White House is isolating. And I think Barack [Obama] and I—because we're kind of stubborn—we've maintained some normalcy, mostly because of the age of our kids. I go out to dinner with my girlfriends; I go to Sasha's games; Barack has coached a little basketball with Sasha's team. But at the same time, when you can't walk into CVS?"
While she may enjoy more leisurely trips to CVS after Jan. 20, Obama doesn't intend on taking off her civil service hat any time soon.
"I've never been the former first lady of the United States of America before," Obama said. "But I will always be engaged in some way in public service and public life. The minute I left my corporate-law firm to work for the city, I never looked back. I've always felt very alive using my gifts and talents to help other people. I sleep better at night. I'm happier."
The December issue of Vogue is available on newsstands Nov. 22.