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Fashion maven Isabel Toledo, designer for Michelle Obama, dies at 59

Though she presented her first collection in 1985, Toledo’s work grabbed attention after Obama wore some of her looks at the inauguration, including the lemongrass shift dress in wool and lace.

Designer Isabel Toledo poses with her shoes and handbags designed for Payless ShoeSource in Miami Beach, Florida, in 2010.
Designer Isabel Toledo poses with her shoes and handbags designed for Payless ShoeSource in Miami Beach, Florida, in 2010.
AP

NEW YORK — Isabel Toledo, the Cuban-American fashion designer with an avant-garde flair who created former first lady Michelle Obama’s standout lemongrass-colored sheath dress and matching overcoat for her husband’s 2009 inauguration, has died. She was 59.

Toledo died of breast cancer, her studio said in an email. Further details were not immediately available.

Though she presented her first collection in 1985, Toledo’s work grabbed attention after Obama wore some of her looks at the inauguration, including the lemongrass shift dress in wool and lace.

Toledo arrived in West New York, New Jersey, as a teenager, later attending but not graduating from fashion college. She met her husband, the fashion illustrator and painter Ruben Toledo, in high school.

She was an independent designer but served briefly as creative director for Anne Klein.

This Jan. 20, 2009, file photo shows President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama, wearing a lemongrass-colored sheath dress and matching overcoat designed by Isabel Toledo as they walk the inaugural parade route in Washington, D.C.
This Jan. 20, 2009, file photo shows President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama, wearing a lemongrass-colored sheath dress and matching overcoat designed by Isabel Toledo as they walk the inaugural parade route in Washington, D.C.
AP