Because you can't have depths without surfaces.
Linda Grant, thinking about clothes, books and other matters.

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

What shall I wear to the party?

Lacroix sketch

Not me, my invitation to one of the many inaugural balls has unaccountably been lost in the post, though I do know someone who is going. Her husband appointed Obama to the position of president of the Harvard Law Review.

But what about the soon to be First Lady? Not an Oscar dress will have more attention this one, heavy with meanings, as Lisa Armstrong points out in the Times:

Bottom line, she's a good-looking woman who knows her way around upmarket labels (in the past year she has worn, among more predictable names, Thakoon and Rodarte, both up and coming darlings of New York Fashion Week). Fashionable, in a user-friendly way, she even made it onto Vanity Fair's 2008 Best Dressed list. She can wear just about any colour and she's the first First Lady since Jackie Kennedy who can anoint trends and sell out a dress (viz, the black and white sundress she wore to guest host ABC's The View). As Peter Som, another New York talent, says: “What she wears has a huge impact on fashion. From day one she has shown her own modern style that many women can identify with or aspire to.” For an industry reeling from the recession, what's not to like?

They'll find something. Because ultimately these outfits are sartorial landmines waiting to happen. They must transcend class, colour and financial barriers. Ideally they should impress, endear and unite. Really it's like asking a blanket to bring world peace, and be fascinating at the same time. On a slightly more attainable level, Letitia Baldridge, a former social secretary to Jackie Kennedy recently noted of Mrs Obama: “It would be wrong for today's First Lady to go around like a princess all the time. But I think it would be very wrong when she's on an official job to be dressed too casually. She's always got to be a bit above.” In short, if her husband is President, “she always has to watch everything ”. And you thought it was just a dress



Anonymous said...

Oh lordy, the PRESSURE this woman must be under, simply to find a dress. At the same time, I bet her husband is going to wear something he already owns!
Is it just me or does this inauguration seem to be getting out of hand?

Deja Pseu said...

I think Michelle Obama has great instincts and will do just fine. And if she inspires us to dress up a bit more, all the better.

Anonymous said...

Michelle Obama always looks nice but she is not the trend setter the adoring press makes her out to be. She dresses like many other women from up-scale American suburbs such as Westchester County.

Michelle is no Jackie O and, yes, this inauguration is totally out of hand especially in today's economic situation.

desertwind said...

It's a refreshing change to have a city girl as first lady, isn't it?

Re the inauguration -- there's always more to-do when the presidency switches political party. The dynamic of the city, as well as the country, will change. It always does.

And, of course, "out of hand" is in the eye of the beholder, isn't it?

After all -- what you gonna do when so many want to come to town to celebrate? DC-area family are excited about all the unofficial events & parties being cooked up by people who just want to have fun!

Toby Wollin said...

Pseu - Yes, the 'dress up a bit more' is something I am hoping for also. I am extremely tired of people coming in to work looking as if they were going out to mow the lawn. To have this young attractive couple in front of us now is going to be a good thing for all of us.

Marti said...

If you are attending one of the balls, would you believe that you can register your dress so that hopefully someone else doesn't wear it?

(obviously I still don't know how to paste anything except the full link).

K2 said...

While it's definitely refreshing to see the media all excited about someone who buys dresses from (gasp!) the mall, I wish they would remember more often that Michelle Obama is so much more than her wardrobe.

desertwind said...

Linda, Robin Givhan of the Washington Post has recent Michelle stories you might enjoy.

"The Wind of Change"
(January 15th - on Chicago fashion/style)

"A First Lady Gowned in Green Would Be a Go"
(Jan. 11th on reader inaugural gown design competition)

"Robin Givhan on Michelle Obama's Sense of Style"
(Jan. 12th chat. It's a little depressing...)

phyllis said...

Marti, I love that dress registry site, it's an instant way know which events are the hot ticket!

And why anyone would register a dress from H&M is beyond me...irony no dobut.

Anonymous said...

Not that it matters a whole lot, but I'm 99.9% certain that the president of the Harvard Law Review is elected by the other editors, not appointed.

Similar to what the other Anonymous said, I don't understand why Michelle Obama is constantly being compared to Jackie O. -- it's not a comparison that serves her well at all and I find it somewhat condescending. A lot of people also don't seem to know that Jackie Kennedy came from money and her father-in-law paid for a lot of her Oleg Cassinis.

Ms. Obama is a reasonably attractive professional woman like hundreds of professional women in the United States. As an African American woman, I find it delightful to see a black woman in that role, but why is it required that she be gorgeous? Why can't she just be nicely dressed, sensible and smart?

Anonymous said...

I must say that starting with the piece on the "meaning" of Hillary Clinton's cleavage when she was running for prez, I've found Robin Givhan's articles to be extremely silly. The last two articles linked to, in which she was playing "Dress Michelle for the Inaugural Ball," were particularly ridiculous.

I mean, sure, it's an amusing pastime for dark days, but the serious tone in which it's written -- Good Lord.

But this article from the New York Times gets my vote for silliest article about Michelle Obama and fashion: