The First Lady winds down her tenure by finishing out a hat trick of Vogue covers
Credit: Annie Leibovitz / Vogue

First Lady Michelle Obama has achieved so much in her eight-year tenure in the White House: She’s assisted veterans and their families, given knockout speeches (including one at the Democratic National Convention this summer) on topics she feels passionately about, transformed the way that kids think about healthy eating and being active, seen her eldest daughter get into Harvard and done all of that while achieving fashion icon status. And now she has one more accomplishment to add to her list: a third Vogue cover within seven years.

Obama is (understandably) proud of her legacy, telling the magazine, “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 décor. 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.”

Her husband, President Barack Obama, also shares his pride about his wife’s role in the White House, writing, “Michelle never asked to be First Lady … Like a lot of political spouses, the role was thrust upon her. But I always knew she’d be incredible at it, and put her own unique stamp on the job. That’s because who you see is who she is— the brilliant, funny, generous woman who, for whatever reason, agreed to marry me. I think people gravitate to her because they see themselves in her— a dedicated mom, a good friend, and someone who’s not afraid to poke a little fun at herself from time to time.”

Michelle Obama
Credit: Annie Leibovitz / Vogue

She poses in Carolina Herrera on the cover and Atelier Versace in an inside photo (the same designer she wore to her final state dinner, to much acclaim), and she opens up about the role fashion has had for her over the past eight years in the public eye — and why she often chose surprising or up-and-coming designers. “It all boils down to comfort level: If I’m going to make you comfortable, than I have to be comfortable first,” she says.” So my first reaction isn’t ‘Who made this?’ But ‘Let’s try it on. What does it look like? Oooh, that’s cute. Oh, wow. I never thought of wearing something like this. Let’s put a belt on it. I feel gooood in this’.”

She continues, “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?!”

So will she miss it all when she leaves the White House in January? “You know, there are little moments … Looking out on the South Lawn and the Washington Monument … 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 says. “But on the flip side . . . it’s time. I think our democracy has it exactly right: two terms, eight years. It’s enough. Because it’s important to have one foot in reality when you have access to this kind of power. The nature of living in the White House is isolating. And I think Barack 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?”

Credit: Annie Leibovitz/Vogue

For Obama’s first cover, shortly after Inauguration in 2009, she wore a pink dress by Jason Wu, who also designed her Inauguration gown. She talked about hoping to give her children a sense of normalcy, but Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour already knew things would be very different, writing: “Change was the clarion call of Barack Obama’s election campaign, though I don’t think any of us at Vogue initially realized that would include the difference that was going to be made by First Lady Michelle Obama’s wardrobe … It’s inspiring to see our first lady so serene and secure in her personal style.”

Credit: Courtesy VOGUE

The First Lady’s second cover was more fashion-forward, with piecey bangs and a sculptural sheath dress. “I always say that women should wear whatever makes them feel good about themselves,” she said at the time. “That’s what I always try to do.”

What do you think about Obama’s third cover? Will you miss her style in the White House?