The Secrets of Dressing Michelle Obama
May 12, 2010
Since Mr. Obama was elected President in 2008, the fashion media have anointed he and his wife the second coming of the Kennedy’s. It seems that many who live outside the Beltway feel perfectly comfortable with the notion that style took a 45-year hiatus, only to reappear in the form of super woman Michelle Obama come to save us all from our sartorial sins. Perhaps this narrative, which I find painfully insulting to all the stylish women who have fought to lift D.C. over the years, is why I have never been all that impressed by Mrs. O’s style.
Sure, the First Lady is well groomed. Sure, she has taste. And sure, she has had some glorious hits. But she has a team of people to choose clothing for her, including a personal shopper in Chicago who handles all of her selecting, buying and tailoring. She also has a voluminous clothing budget which allows for the purchase of Thakoon, Prabal Gurung, Naeem Khan and others. And even with all that help there have still been some notable misses (Britain, anyone?). All in all, I would say that she is a well-dressed person, but I would be skeptical of her ability to make headlines in Vogue and W were she still just a junior Senator’s wife.
Earlier this week, The Daily Beast featured an interesting article discussing the process by which designers try (mostly in vain) to dress the First Lady. From the sound of things, it seems like you might have an easier time negotiating world peace than landing one of your creations on the back on Mrs. O. But given the financial benefits (Jason Wu’s sales are up 40-percent thanks to Mrs. O), it certainly seems like a worthwhile fight.
Here is an excerpt, but the whole article is certainly worth a read.
Some designers, including major domestic and international houses, have all but given up trying to dress the first lady. None would speak for the record out of dim hopes that someday maybe their time would come—or fear of winding up in de la Renta’s fashion purgatory. A few expressed frustrations with the inscrutable Goldman and with Mrs. Obama’s seeming prejudice against established figures like Donna Karan or Calvin Klein, in favor of young or niche designers. A few were critical of Mrs. Obama’s fashion missteps—those CdG cardigans, for example—and a developing sense of style, which Women’s Wear Daily, at pains to describe it, once called “more forced practicality than innate polish.”