This morning when I was listening to Weekend Edition on NPR (yes, I'm a Bobo in Paradise) a story came on about Michelle Obama. Of course I immediately stopped in my tracks to listen because the First Lady is my idol.
Liane Hansen talked to a couple of bloggers about Mrs. Obama's image over the last few months and the conversation eventually turned to fashion. I think Mrs. Obama's outfits are almost always perfect and I love that she mixes designer pieces with items from J. Crew and White House Black Market. Others - specifically designer Oscar de la Renta - have problems with her choices. Mr. de la Renta seems to think that the First Ladies of America should only wear "classic" designers. He of course means himself and others like Bill Blass, Chanel, and Valentino. Worse, this guy doesn't like Mrs. Obama's outfits. I mean really, who's going to wear his taffeta nightmares?
Instead, the First Lady chooses new and different designers like Jason Wu and Isabel Toledo. She goes to the Gap and Ann Taylor. This all makes me wonder, what's the point? Can't the woman just be a style star and the stores and boutiques be damned? Blogger Tami Harris made a point that never occured to me: Michelle Obama may be making a political - albeit silent - statement with her clothes?
Ms. Harris said that some "classic' designers rarely, if ever, use models of color in their runway shows or print ads. It's true that for years that designers and fashion magazines alike have been encouraged (read: arms twisted) into booking models of color. There are still statements like, "The first Black woman to be the face of _______." Want an example? Check out Valentino's Spring 2009 collection. There is one Black model in a sea of White women. There is not a Latina, Asian or any other color represented.
There is also the financial implications. I mean, sure, I can afford some Christian Dior...as long as it comes in the form of a tube of mascara. On the other hand, I can rub some nickels together and go to Marshall's or Norstrom Rack and get some of her fabulous items. I kind of like that if I met Mrs. Obama, we might be wearing the same belt. Many of her clothes reflect the wallets of Americans, instead of the "don't put your grubby hands on my pink Chanel!" of the past.
So I wonder, do you think Mrs. Obama might be making a tiny bit more than a fashion statement?