I’ve been a little down this week, so in an attempt to cheer myself up, I decided to stop at the bookstore to indulge in my two favorite things – coffee and fashion magazines (not to mention the lovely smell of all those books). In perusing, I noticed Michelle Obama is on the cover of the March issue of Vogue. All political associations and viewpoints aside (I also wrote about Sarah Palin’s fashion choices during the election, and Jackie O’s status as a fashion icon), I love all the media attention Michelle’s fashion choices are receiving.
As American fashion struggles on in a time when flaunting economic status is a faux pas, it is refreshing to see America’s first lady taking the role seriously and dressing the part.
As of late, I have read articles praising Michelle for celebrating American designers, and others criticizing the media for treating Michelle like Barbie doll. Those who praise Michelle’s cloths note the good she does for the industry, and the advantages of her every-woman body (compared to say Kate Winslet’s newly celebrated figure). Those who criticize, don’t criticize her, they criticize the media’s objectification of the first lady, and lack of attention on her intellectual status. The first questions critics ask are along the lines of “‘Do reporters shout ‘who are you wearing?’ to former president George W. Bush?”.
My answer – Of course not!
Maybe this goes against equity for men and women, but men’s formal fashion is BORING. One suit does not stand out from the rest (unless you pair it with a loud pair of gym shoes like Kanye West). The freedom women have with clothing is just that – a freedom! As a woman with many style choices, it is complimentary when people notice what I wear. In addition, it is not an insult to my intelligence. We don’t wear our intelligence. We do wear our confidence. And Michelle Obama does this beautifully and positively.
We shouldn’t take that power away from women. Style sense and a vast array of formal clothing choices is special to women, and rather than craving to be treated like men, fashion is a way to celebrate being feminine.
Another problem I have with the Bush comparison is that Michelle Obama is not the president. She is the president’s wife. Sarah Palin, in running for Vice President, had more limited choices and still celebrated being female (and had to take far more criticism on all levels I might add). Jackie O is a more comparable because she is also a first lady, and due to her status as a fashion icon, still has vast influence today.
Being a fashion icon is not shallow. People communicate through a variety of mediums. Embracing clothing as one of those mediums that is inherently and beautifully feminine, instead of a form of shallow objectification that women have to overcome, takes more than a big wallet and a designer dress.
The media may be focusing on the cloths in focusing on the woman, but Michelle Obama has made the best investment yet. The one in herself by setting an example of feminine power.