Let’s just say at the outset that American women have been bombarded with eight years of stories about the sartorial splendor of Michelle Obama. Strictly speaking –all politics aside – I could just never jump onto this bandwagon and largely spent the better part of last decade tuning these stories out. Now we have another First Lady so one would expect the same droll fashionistas would be parroting the same line – especially since the current First Lady is a former fashion model. But strangely enough, this does not seem to be the case. In fact, Mrs. Trump it seems can do nothing right in the world of fashion. How odd?
That leads one to believe that something deeper is going on here that is worth a brief examination. Could it be that politics are at play? Is there an actual politicization of First Lady-wear?
When I look at Mrs. Obama’s choice of clothing, I remember what my dear Mummy used to say. “Stay away from patterns. Wear solids. Avoid dirndl skirts if you don’t want your butt to look big. Dress simply and elegantly. Stay away from trends.”
Ok, that’s a lot of advice, but Mummy was an awfully good looking lady. Here she is in her 60’s:
Now my mom didn’t write for Vogue but she certainly had a sense of style. However, when I compare her advice with the clothing of Mrs. Obama it just doesn’t seem to match up – at all.
Stay away from patterns?
Avoid dirndl skirts?
Stay away from trends?
I have to say, my mother does have a point. So here we are in 2017 and Mrs. Obama is still getting rave reviews from the world of fashion. Recently she wore this white, trendy, shoulder-baring top. This would be no big deal except Mrs. Obama wore it to a church in Italy. Despite the fact that a shirt of that style was in strict violation of the church dress code, People Magazine lauded Mrs. Obama as Molto Bella and went on to gush that the former first lady, “struck the perfect note with her ensembles.” Travel & Leisure cooed, “Mrs. Obama shows us all how to dress for an Italian vacation.” And the mother of all fashion periodicals Vogue effusively chimed in with “Michelle Obama masters chic vacation style in Italy.”
First Lady Michelle Obama looking fresh and flawless while touring the city of Montalcino in Italy. pic.twitter.com/JkZ846V2IB
— Nerdy Wonka (@NerdyWonka) May 21, 2017
Really? In fact, you have to three pages deep on a Google search to find anyone willing to disagree with the rave reviews of Michelle-wear Italiano. However, some friends emailed me an article entitled, “Michelle Obama’s CLASSLESS and inappropriate outfit breaks rules for Italian cathedral visit.” The BizPac Review proceeded to rip what was left of Mrs. Obama’s shirt to shreds:
Not one to care about rules for commoners, Obama had zero respect for the dress code of the Italian Gothic church. From Mygola.com:
- What is the dress code for visiting the cathedral?
- No bare shoulders and no skirts or shorts above the knee. Same as any other church in Italy, no bare shoulders and no skirts or shorts above the knee.
While you and I are suffering the effects of bad government, Barack and Michelle Obama are vacationing in Italy and enjoying themselves. pic.twitter.com/yMtAmlIxoy
— i.Web.Paul (@iWebPaul) May 23, 2017
At the other end of the runway, we have Melania Trump who seems to be the type of lady you could clothe in a burlap sack and she’d look good. But that isn’t the way it’s playing in rag industry. Pret-A-Reporter complained (in all caps), “IS MELANIA TRUMP’S OVERSEAS WARDROBE A SILENT PROTEST?” They pointed out that Mrs. Trump wore no hijab in Saudi Arabia but donned a lace head scarf for an audience with the Pope:
But what’s been more striking perhaps is what the first lady has worn in Saudi Arabia, where she is a popular figure who has been praised for her “classic and conservative” fashion choices. When she arrived on Saturday, she wore a black Stella McCartney jumpsuit and gilded gold belt so large, it resembled a prize fighter’s. At first, it seemed like an odd choice of something to deplane in, but in the context of the looks that followed, the superhero-like outfit makes sense on a couple of levels.
When she visited a GE call center in Riyadh staffed entirely by women, she wore a militaristic-looking, olive drab Ralph Lauren shirt dress and zebra print pumps, looking like a feminist freedom fighter. Was she signaling how far the kingdom has come, or how far it has still to go? Perhaps a little of both.
I’ll spare you the rest of the psycho-babble. Somewhere between “prize-fighter” and “militaristic-looking” one gathers the fashion police in America are not pleased with Mrs. Trump’s ensembles. Perhaps it’s selective memory, but I don’t remember Republicans discussing the disgraceful appearance of Jackie Kennedy. This begs the question: have we lost our manners and good taste in the U.S. in favor of political spin – even in clothing? Is it so hard to say that someone with a different political ideology looks nice too?
Despite all the plethora of less than glowing stories about Mrs. Trump and her sartorial splendor, one gets the feeling that she is a woman who is quite comfortable in her own skin, doesn’t need the approval of others and could care less what they say. Considering the current toxic political environment in America this is better than good and a rather necessary attitude.
Good for her.
(Hat tip: Sheila Stabile and friends)