Last year, we avidly followed the wardrobe manoeuvres of Carla Bruni-Sarkozy. Regal in Christian Dior couture, the former model was a picture of never-to-be-achieved aspiration. She inspired comparisons to Jackie Onassis, Audrey Hepburn and any other classically chic fashion icon you care to mention. Her demure smile, teamed with shades of grey and the odd flash of royal purple, meant that Parisian chic was the look to aim for.
This year, with the recession in full swing, she's been ousted from the top of the leaderboard by Michelle Obama, whose styling is nothing if not achievable. Mrs O champions young designers like Jason Wu, yet also wears high street brands like J Crew, the US equivalent of our Marks & Spencer. Carla, on the other hand, wouldn't be seen dead in a M&S twinset and pearls.
Today, the two fashion titans clashed in sartorial battle in Strasbourg, as the US and French presidents met ahead of the Nato summit. Michelle wore a black coat with a floral pattern of pink poppies. The collar was ruched and tied loosely around the neck. It was rather lovely. Teamed with low kitten heels in black patent leather, the look achieved exactly the right balance of cheeriness and glamour.
Carla, on the other hand, has gone for a cropped-sleeve coat in a soft grey, which is one of her favourite colours: she wore it a lot last year. And that's part of the problem - it feels like we've seen it all before. Despite the matching pussybow, compared to Michelle, Carla actually looks a bit washed out and (we can't believe we're about to say this) prim and proper. A flash of colour or a fashionable statement accessory could have taken this outfit to another level - but that's just not Carla's style.
Carla was carrying one accessory: a blue framed bag with a ring-shaped handle, which is the spitting image of the black one she carried to meet the Queen in London last year. The verdict at the time from our deputy fashion editor, Imogen Fox? "The Queen's was way more stylish".