Carla Bruni Does First Lady Costumes Better Than AnyoneNPR today brings us a story on the sartorial "tightrope" that any potential first lady must walk: "a successful first lady profile is a delicate amalgam of not-too-bright, not-too-tight, not-too low-cut and not-too expensive...today's First Ladies have to look stylish, but not too stylish." The piece goes on to compliment both Michelle Obama and Cindy McCain for their efforts in this department, praising the "variety" of both women's wardrobes. Which just makes it funnier to see the Daily Mail's piece, "The Bruni Effect," which talks about how - by seemingly breaking most of these rules - Carla Bruni's had a major influence on fashion, perhaps pointing up as well as anything the inherent difference between America and the old world.First of all, Mme. Sarkozy wears couture - a lot of it. There's no fear of looking elitist or spending too much...Bruni is customarily seen in Dior, sporting Galliano's creations with the comfort of, well, a model. Whereas a first lady expert speaks approvingly of the naturalness of both Obama and McCain's looks - ""these aren't costumes" - Bruni seems to revel in her first lady costumes. This is a woman who's posed nude and walked the runway in swimwear and now - pillbox hats?! And that's why it's so appealing, probably; it feels like she's having fun. She does suits, sure, but they're retro-styled, deliberate twists on "first lady," more elegant and expensive than businesslike. She's demure in the way Mad Men is demure: it's obviously hypocritical fantasy that everyone's in on. She could obviously rock anything - the woman's a model! - so when she chooses to go demure, it's fun. And everyone loves it. Apparently chic little suits and pink coats like the one Bruni wore on her state visit to London have flooded the high street, as has her downtime uniform: "Wide jeans, loose-fitting shirt, wide-lapelled coat and scarf." If you tried, it would be hard to come up with a personage less well-cut to the pattern of American political wife than Carla Bruni: model! Pop singer! Lovers! Tell-alls! Nudity! And yet (the popularity of Michelle's View dress notwithstanding) it's hard to imagine one of our picture-perfect first mates becoming a fashion icon in this day and age. Ironically, it's in Europe that a woman has been more able to reinvent herself, and in America where we demand feminine convention in this regard. Cut It Like Carla[Daily Mail] Potential First Ladies Walk The Fashion Tightrope [NPR]