One way for first lady Michelle Obama to quash talk about what she wears on a big night out for the fashion world: stay in.
The Council of Fashion Designers of America honored her with a special tribute at fashion's equivalent of the Oscars on Monday night in New York City. But Obama, who hosted a jazz event at the White House, thanked the council by taped video, wearing unassailable pearls and white shirt.
Tracey Ullman used her perch and British lineage to weigh in on wearing a cardigan to meet the queen--a royal don't, she said.
Still, Obama's new-generation fashion sensibilities ran throughout the night.
Nominated for awards were several emerging designers she has worn, including Thakoon Panichgul and Jason Wu, both up for the Swarovski Award for womenswear. But they were beaten out by another newcomer, the rocker-chic designer Alexander Wang.
A more established Obama favorite, Narciso Rodriguez, was up for womenswear designer of the year, alongside titan Marc Jacobs. Both were topped by the less-known West Coast sisters behind the gothy-glamor Rodarte label, Kate and Laura Mulleavy. "It's so hard to be up here when we think where we started, making clothes in our house three years ago," Kate Mulleavy said.
There was rock-star power: In a sparkly brown suit, Jack White of the White Stripes gave out the Geoffrey Beene Lifetime Achievement Award to Anna Sui, saying he admires her for her timely, not trendy designs. (White is married to model Karen Elson.)
Justin Timberlake honored GQ creative director Jim Moore by appearing on the Lincoln Center stage as a Moore lookalike, in black suit, skinny black tie, silver tie clip and white pocket square.
Timberlake said that while he has his own style sense, he's open to Moore's guidance.
"It turns out I'm a guy who could pull off wearing a kilt," he said. "Who knew?"
"Twilight's" Taylor Lautner attended, as did Heidi Klum and "Gossip Girl's" Blake Lively, both wearing Michael Kors.
Winning the accessories award were Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez, the team behind the feminine, minimalist aesthetic of Proenza Schouler.
Jimmy Fallon presented the menswear award: a tie between Italo Zucchelli for Calvin Klein and Scott Sternberg of the brand Band of Outsiders.
Ralph Lauren won the first popular vote award, after about 15,000 online voters named him their favorite designer. Jacobs was named the top international designer for his work at Louis Vuitton.
Jewelry designer Justin Giunta and menswear designer Tim Hamilton also took home Swarovski awards.
Oscars of style industry
Fashion world doles out top awards to new guard
The Michelle Obama effect runs through the night