Michelle Obama's dress disaster
November 10, 2008 | Crowds all over the U.S. and as
far as Kenya erupted in applause as the new first family
entered the stage. Obama had won. It was a historical
moment, one my kids will probably ask me about 20 years
down the road. As the first African-American president
approached the podium, there was only one thing I could
"Dude. What's with Michelle's dress?"
The black scoop-neck ensemble had what can only be
described as a cosmic red star explosion on the front
(perhaps a symbolic message to the Republican party).
A crisscross sash divided the upper and lower hemispheres
of the catastrophic blast. The red belly was awkward
and unflattering to Michelle Obama's figure. Well, probably
It's ridiculous that fashion is a weighty issue for
female politicians, yet I must confess even I have fallen
into it. We have become programmed to analyze the style
of candidates and candidates' wives. I eagerly researched
to find out who made Obama's dress.
It was designed by Narciso Rodriquez and was actually
altered to make it more appropriate for the occasion
(less cleavage and more length). Obama also added a
black cardigan. The original looked more balanced, but
I feel like the design was always a troublesome one.
Rodriquez seems to have drawn his inspiration from an
unusual source -- the black widow spider.
Although some in the fashion industry have praised
Obama's choice, condemnation by professionals and regular
citizens has been more common. An online poll by Us
Weekly magazine revealed that the majority of its
readers did not approve. (The next vital issue being
determined by Us Weekly readers: who should perform
at Barrack Obama's inauguration. The choices are Beyonce,
Madonna, Justin Timberlake or Jay-Z. My vote is Jay-Z.)
I have a fashion trivia question of my own: What was
Barrack Obama wearing? Describe in detail his suit and
tie. If you are like me, you only vaguely remember,
and you certainly have no strong opinion. A tie would
have to be absolutely abominable to make a headline.
We do not focus on the style of male political figures,
but we have a wary eye on the women.
Sarah Palin's $150,000 wardrobe has hit headlines
like a tropical storm. Whether it was a red leather
jacket, form-fitting skirt or smashing white blazer,
Palin looked just plain hot on the campaign trail, and
the press and public ate it up. Fashion often outweighed
policy in media attention.
Now that the cost of Palin's look has been revealed,
many are appalled. Palin was never going to keep the
clothes, according to Tracey Schmitt, spokesperson for
the McCain - Palin campaign. It was used for a charitable
purpose after the campaign, she said. (Palin can donate
to my organization, PANTS: Poor Aggies Needing Thousand-dollar
Citizens are shocked that a politician would spend
so much on her appearance. But perhaps we have encouraged
this sort of behavior. These days, a female politician
or politician's wife cannot simply disregard the public's
thirst for fashion. Hillary Clinton's gender neutral
suits got her nowhere. What our country wants out of
its women, even those in politics, is sass.
Even a female politician's hair is analyzed to a disturbing
degree. Booth Moore of the Los Angeles Times
described Palin's do in this way: "Her hair is a study
in contrasts, carefree and 'done' at the same time.
The untidiness of her updo has a can-do spirit that
says, 'I have more important things to do than worry
about my hair, so I just twirled it into this clip so
I could get to the real business of governing and shooting
caribou and having babies and taking them to hockey
"The bouffant in the front, which appears to be teased
from underneath, is more traditional…And yet, you get
the feeling that at the end of the day, she could shake
out that lustrous mane (longer than any other major
female U.S. political figure's) and get it on with her
Sick. That's all I have to say. Can women ever escape
the sexism that is always nipping at our heels? Please
show me an article in which the author elaborates on
the fantasy of messing up Obama's hair.
I watched a news clip a few days ago featuring Palin
and her family as they boarded an airplane for Alaska.
She sported jeans and a baggy T-shirt. Her attire screamed
"I am finally free."
Obama can forget about jeans and a T-shirt for the
next four years. A recent article in New York magazine
hailed her for holding her own against France's first
lady Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, a former supermodel.
I consider the following excerpt from the article
pathetic: "We have a feeling she'll continue to mix
affordable pieces with designer pieces as First Lady,
but this wardrobe choice proves this woman knows fashion
and we have an exciting four years of political fashion
ahead of us…What will she choose for the inaugural ball?
The suspense is so exciting! And you know what else
is great about this? We don't have to envy France for
Carla Bruni anymore!"
Is this really what we want most from our First Lady,
a knock-out dress for the inaugural ball? Is Bruni the
candle on the hill to which Obama should aspire? Bleh.
Women in politics carry a heavy burden of all the typical
pressures of leadership with the addition requirement
of looking fantastic all day, every day. Whether she
likes it or not, Michelle Obama has a high expectation
Big political bashes are rivaling the Academy Awards
in relation to money spent on clothing and accessories.
Vanity Fair magazine estimated Cindy McCain's
shiny yellow outfit for the opening session of the Republican
National Convention was worth about $300,000, including
accessories such as the 3-carat diamond earrings (the
dress by itself was priced at $3,000).
What dress will Michelle Obama pick for the inaugural
ball? What lucky designer will receive her patronage?
I and the rest of America will be sitting on the edge
of our seats.