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Sunday, January 30, 2011
Politics of the First Lady's Outfits
I love Michelle Obama. Actually, I mean I love her approach to First Lady's dress code. I don't even mean I love 'her style.' No, it's not her style that I keep a regular check once in a while, that's for the likes of my two Kates, and Middleton is none of them. It's apparently Kate Moss and Kate Bosworth, Diane Kruger, Alexa Chung or Carey Mulligan.
To be precise, what I like about Mrs Obama is the way she distches the conventional approach to selecting high-profile, predictable American designers and go for choices that are truly her own. To me, she beats Carla Bruni in this regard. The French first lady is gorgeous because she's bloody beautiful, not because of the conventional skirtsuit she's wearing!
But not everyone shares this view of Mrs Obama. The First Lady has come under fire lately(and all along, actually) for she has forsaken a number of high-profile American designers. Oscar De La Renta, who had provided outfits for almost all US First Ladies before the Obamas took over the White House, is particularly critical of Mrs Obama, from the Azzedine Alaïa cardigan she wore to the Buckingham Palace ("You don't wear a cardigan to Buckingham Palace") or the latest Alexander McQueen dress at the State Dinner with China ("My understanding is that the visit was to promote American-Chinese
trade -- American products in China and Chinese products in America. Why
do you wear European clothes?")
Right, Mr De La Renta continued to go on citing Kate Middleton and Carla Bruni, saying ''Do you think Kate Middleton is going to be married in Marc Jacobs?'' and ''Or you'd see Carla Bruni dressing in American clothes?'' Never mind Bruni, we've seen the lady wearing everything and wearing absolutely nothing at all since her days as model, but I personally think if Kate Middleton isn't to wear Marc Jacobs, it's probably got to do with the fact that she wouldn't be able to pull off those grungy, uber fashion-forward look, and not because of the nationality of the designer.
First Ladies, like royalties, bear the burden of representing the nation and in fashion, it means they're expected to act as patroness, sponsor, supporter and whatever of the national fashion business by appearing in outfits designed by homegrown designers. But is it really just so? I mean, although the late Diana, Princess of Wales has been credited for putting the British fashion into the world map, but she did wear a lot of Versace, Christian Lacroix, Ungaro
and Chanel. Mrs Obama, if you really count like The New York Times' Cathy Horyn did (''more than 50 different labels in her first year in the White House, based on my rough count''), is a true supporter of American fashion, unless you insist Thakoon Panichgul is Thai, Jason Wu is Taiwanese and Derek Lam is Chinese!
What she failed to do -- and unfortunately this failure infrignes with the interests of some designers' business -- is to embrace the White House wardrobe tradition. In my opinion, by opting for a large variety of new-wave American designers, unconventional choices (as of First Lady standard, like Lanvin sneakers, asymmetrical Junya Watanabe cardigan or Maison Martin Margiela sandals) Mrs Obama wasn't ''trying too hard to be fashion-forward'' as Bob Colacello noted. She just tries to be herself and refused to be someone else designers expect her to be, whether for their own benefits or for the local fashion industry. Her response to the criticism? "Look, women, wear what you love. That's all I can say. That's my motto.
I wear what I like because...I gotta be in the dress, so..."
I couldn't agree more. Before she's the First Lady of the united States, she is Michelle Obama and she has all the rights to wear whatever that represents herself. It's a clever approach, because if you look back at Princess Diana during her early public appearances, her outfits back then were simply fashion disaster. Mrs Obama, fortunately, isn't a teenage girl Diana was when she's thrust into the limelight, and forced in the outfits that befit the role of wife to the future king, whether or not it fit her character. Obama is a mother of two who knows what she likes and looks best in, and doesn't allow the conventional expectations of the First Lady of the United States to control her decision as to what clothes she wants to be seen, and photographed in.
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