Michelle Obama wears Preen ensemble to debate, shares hug with Ann Romney

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The presidential debate last night was not only a moment for the candidates to face off on the issues — it was also a prime opportunity for their wives to showcase their style, an important element of the first lady role.

SLIDESHOW: Michelle Obama proves style icon status with stunning looks on 2012 campaign trail

First lady Michelle Obama supported her husband, President Obama, looking superbly chic, yet brilliantly conservative in a dress and matching jacket, which gave her the appearance of wearing a jewel toned suit with an abstractly printed top. A woman who more often wears dresses to great applause, Michelle’s suit-like look made a distinct impression on this important night. Not only was it the first presidential debate of the campaign; it was also the first couple’s 20th anniversary.

Mrs. Obama looked great in an ensemble fit for both occasions. Designed by the cutting edge label Preen, “The look is from Justin Thornton and Thea Bregazzi’s Fall 2011 collection,” reports the style blog Mrs. O. “The multicolored geometric-floral prints used in this collection were reported to be inpsired by the Northern California Arts and Crafts movement.”

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This is certainly fitting for a first lady as fashion forward as Michelle Obama. As the only first lady in recent years to embrace new and young designers, her selection of this creative, youthful brand is a continuation of her unspoken mission to promote new voices in American fashion, as she already has for names ranging from Jason Wu to Tracy Reese.

Ann Romney wore a cream, structured suit with matching pearls. While thoroughly understated, detailed stitching gave her look a touch of edge. The two women shared hugs at the debate, acting with smooth diplomacy as they interacted even though they represent opposing sides.

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While the first lady looked fabulous, she admitted to the press that holding the debate on her 20th anniversary was not her cup of tea. “I told Barack, ‘This, you know, attending a presidential debate on my 20th anniversary is probably the worst way for me to spend (it).’ … I get so nervous at these debates,” the Daily Mail reports.

That didn’t stop Barack and Michelle from sharing their love with each other — and the world — on their special day. In the midst of campaigning on Oct. 3, the president and first lady took a few moments to tweet sentimental messages regarding their continuing love.

“Twenty years ago today, I married the love of my life and my best friend. Happy anniversary, Michelle,” the president tweeted.

“Happy 20th anniversary, Barack. Thank you for being an incredible partner, friend, and father every day. I love you!,” was the first lady’s response.

Follow Alexis Garrett Stodghill on Twitter at @lexisb.