The first criticism of Michelle Obama's dress in the UK surfaced in the Daily Telegraph, which is hardly surprising given the Telegraph's right wing leanings.
Now in my Access to Contemporary Fashion lecture where half the class didn't show post election night, the other half (myself included) were bleary eyed or asleep on the desk (really one person was!) we discussed the dress a lot, after swapping 'our' night stories, everyones included drink apart from mine which was just emails between Observationmode and me. Our lecturer who is wonderful but formidable, she is French, always comments on any late attendees. But after the result she was joyous, all manner of student sloppiness was tolerated and forgiven. In fact at every available moment she wanted to discuss 'that dress'. Why we even dropped Foucault and entered into discourse on the meaning of the choice of dress. Our deconstruction can best be summed up by these comments from AFP:
"The Italian daily La Stampa dubbed the dress "the look of victory" and said the black symbolised mourning for Obama's grandmother, who died on the eve of the election, while the red was for passion.
A contributor to the website of the German newsweekly Focus also suggested there was hidden meaning in the colours, perhaps red for the political left and black for the first African-American to win the US presidency.
"It is more about the symbolic effect of the colour combination red/black. Because the daughters were also in red or black. Very unusual and surely no accident," the reader said."
Whatever meaning we think was intended or speculate about one thing is for sure - she didn't wear a suit! How glad am I. nothing drives me to distraction more than a suit - look what it did for Hillary. I'm sorry but modern day wearing of the suit has too many connotations with the word 'professional'. The suit has been appropriated by white collar workers, the world of business and corporate companies. The suit, a male outfit, that symbolises certain values, values that don't mean kindness or love or care, think money, status and power. There is nothing wrong with a suit, think Chanel, think Jackie Kennedy but it has lost its cache as a style item and become a way of dressing to represent certain values as I've mentioned above. With the collapse of banking, the uncovering of the vagrancy's of so called professional jobs it is time the suit was reclaimed by workers (think teddy boys for those of you able to access Tuesday's British Style Genius) and make it something stylish again that doesn't just mean smart or professional or relate to a job.
Which is why Michelle Obama got it right, a dress was the perfect showcase for the modern women, a woman with intelligence, vanity (come on looking good is important) and a sense of others. Her choice of dress was stunning, it was vibrant and well cut. The cardigan kept it from being showy given the occasion. When Michelle chooses to wear a suit in a formal setting I'll be taking notes because it will convey something.
photo: Red Carpet Fashion Awards