Michelle Obama’s Secret Style Weapon

Known in some quarters as the first lady’s tailor and dressmaker, Christy Rilling is starting her own line.

On a recent morning, Irene Neuwirth, who had trekked from Los Angeles to Christy Rilling’s studio on West 38th Street in Manhattan, chattered brightly as Ms. Rilling fitted her for the gown she planned to wear on Oscars night. Ms. Neuwirth, a jewelry designer with an enthusiastic Hollywood following, emerged in her street clothes from behind a screen, exhilarated to have had a voice in the gown’s creation.

“I love this feeling of couture, it’s so personal,” she said. “You want to be in control of the way you look.”

She had settled on

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