She had a fresh haircut to get the ball rolling, but it was her outfits the world was really waiting to see.
And Michelle Obama didn't disappoint.
DC's night of nights, the inaugural ball, saw the 49-year-old steal the show in a ruby gown by American designer, Jason Wu.
Michelle Obama wears Jason Wu to the 2013 inaugural ball - repeating her support for the young designer after chosing to wear his design in 2009.
As the president and his wife took to the dance floor to the sounds of Jennifer Hudson, the internet went into overdrive, tweeting, liking and commenting on the frock choice. The dress was a telling vote of confidence from the White House, after the first lady wore the same designer to 2009's inaugural ball.
The deep red chiffon and velvet gown, cinched at the waist and detailed with ruching at the high, gathered neckline, flowed and rippled as Michelle sashayed across the stage and impressed a global audience.
For Jason Wu, 30, the night is doubtless as memorable as it is for the first family - double sartorial honours securing his place in the annals of political fashion history.
Barack and Michelle dance together at the inauguration ball to the sounds of Jennifer Hudson.
A well-kept secret until the very last moment, the stars-and-stripes co-ordinated red dress had been the subject of intense speculation in the build-up to the event.
A daring look was predicted, in keeping with past first ladies' second inaugurations, when the relaxed atmosphere is seen as lending itself to risk-taking designs, individual expressions of style and a move away from toeing the line.
As such, the bright, shimmering gown, teamed with Jimmy Choo shoes and jewellery by Kimberly McDonald, is spot-on with its eye-catching, high-octane glamour and powerful, confident hue.
Earlier in the day, Michelle wore a Thom Browne coatdress, teamed with a J Crew belt, to the inauguration parade.
The president's wife is understood to have had a handful of ball dresses ready for the evening, reserving her final decision until the very last moment.
The designer's reaction to the choice says it all, @jasonwu tweeting "#Inshock!!!" shortly after the gown was revealed.
As for word from Mrs Obama herself, the mood seemed as upbeat - and tender - as ever.
Malia and Sasha wore co-ordinated purple coats as they watched their father make history.
"Just danced to 'Let's Stay Together' with the love of my life and the President of the United States. I’m so proud of Barack", she tweeted from @FLOTUS shortly into the evening.
Earlier in the day, a winter-ready structured coatdress had onlookers praising her wardrobe yet again.
Propelling Thom Browne's career and global recognition, the first lady chose a coatdress by the American designer as she stepped out for the 57th presidential inauguration parade proceedings.
Inaugural Ball in Washington
President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama and guests at the Commander-in-Chief's Inaugural Ball in Washington, at the Washington Convention Center during the 57th Presidential Inauguration on January 21, 2013. Photo: AP
Having worn the design with bare legs at the morning church service, she later paired the look with a J Crew belt, Cathy Waterman necklace and Reed Krakoff boots - it's a safe bet that tills are, no doubt, already ringing with the endorsement.
Browne was clearly moved by the choice, telling WWD: "It’s amazing and one of the most humbling moments, when you know she had so much to choose from. Words cannot describe it."
Browne, not afraid to be eccentric, last year encased his New York Fashion Week show models in coffins and sent mythical, dragon-like creatures down the runway. Known for his signature "shrunken" men's suits, the designer had something more conservative in mind for the first lady.
"She’s such a strong woman,” Mr Browne said. “I wanted her to feel good in it and to feel comfortable, strong, feminine and beautiful."
He told The New York Times of his shock reaction. "It's one of those moments when I just can't believe that happened."
Malia and Sasha stepped out in bright jackets by J Crew and Kate Spade - doing their part to support US designers.
Jenna Lyons, creative director of J Crew, was clearly not disappointed.
"It's amazing to see the evolution of the family. I love the way Michelle looks. She looks beautiful in something so clean and tailored. It's such an elegant choice," Lyons told AP, "and they all look so sophisticated! You can see how the girls have grown up in the four years, and they're still so alive and vibrant, but more sophisticated."
Hailed as examples to America, and indeed the world, the family was praised by Simon Collins, dean of the school of fashion at Parsons The New School for Design in New York, for "not dressing in the dark" and taking pride in how they look."
But, as sensational as they are, Michelle's outfits may have been trumped by her instantly-famous eyeball roll, craftily shot at Speaker of the House John Boehner as he spoke to her at the post-inauguration luncheon.
Gawker is calling the moment "what might be the most important moment of the inauguration" - either way, we'd love to know what Boehner said.