The Fashion Statement: Obama Weathers Storm, Book Praises Style
Michelle Obama has weathered the sartorial storm.
Late last week on Good Morning America, she faced her critics: "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..."
Next week, she will be lauded for connecting with everyday Americans by her attainable style in a book by Kate Betts, Everyday Icon: Michelle Obama and the Power of Style (Clarkson Potter, February 8, 2011).
If you haven't been keeping track, here's what all the fuss was about: Weeks after the First Lady wore an Alexander McQueen gown (pictured above) to a state dinner honoring Chinese president Hu Jintao, her fashion choice had grown into a full-blown kerfuffle. Some blogs were even calling it McQueengate.
From a fashion point of view, most critics agreed it was a slam dunk (the color red is auspicious in Chinese culture). From a political viewpoint, several U.S. designers-Oscar de la Renta and Diane Von Furstenberg, in particular-voiced disapproval that she donned a British, instead of American, label on an evening that was supposed to promote American Chinese trade.
The official statement from the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA)-Von Furstenberg is president-went like this: "CFDA believes in promoting American fashion. Our First Lady Michelle Obama has been wonderful at promoting our designers, so we were surprised and a little disappointed not to be represented for this major state dinner."
Cathy Horyn, of the New York Times, called out Oscar de la Renta, the CFDA and fashion trade WWD for deciding "to conduct the equivalent of a witch hunt." Horyn also pointed out the hypocracy on the part of the designers for making such a stink-they outsource labor to Asia taking with them jobs U.S. garments workers would welcome. She adds: "I want [Obama] to be far more than "prime placement" for a dress label-whatever the country of origin. She supports a number of causes, notably healthful eating habits, but these deeds are being overshadowed by what she wears."
In Betts' book, little else is discussed. Entire chapters are devoted to Obama's position as an everyday style icon, from her days on the campaign trail to down-to-earth choices for different functions.
Meanwhile, the late Alexander McQueen would have loved this. During his two-decade career McQueen courted controversy-and was considered a genius for doing so. And that reminds me: Mark your calendars. Because, from May 4 to July 31, the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art will stage Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty, a retrospective of the designer's work. I don't plan on missing it.