Thursday, 6 November 2008

Suits you!

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


  1. Yay Obamas!!!
    That dress is going to sell out like crazy...

    And I love observationmode too :)


  2. Intriguingly, in the US red is the colour of Republicanism (not like in Canada where red is liberal). I wonder if she was throwing a bone to bi-partisanism? I agree that she coordinated very well with the family (it was notably about cohesion), but I didn't find the dress flattering. Modern, yes. Oh, I liked the use of black a) because it might have been in respect for the grandmother and b) because it is very chic / not something I've seen before.

  3. Great post, my first reaction to the dress when I saw it on tv was "no," but then I saw it up close and loved it. I love that she wears bold clothes and really knows what looks good on her.

  4. I remember being puzzled by the dress on the night, but I just assumed Mrs. Obama knew what she was doing, and I began to focus on the acid green ensemble that nearly dwarfed her on the stage.

    One thing I thought was interesting was the choice of red. Here, Red = Republican/Conservative, the polar opposite of Democrat, of which Mrs. Obama is a party member. I thought maybe she'd choose blue, but I guess not. Once again, I defer to her good judgment.

    She's getting it right without my opinions! :)

  5. I don't think it was her best look, but I like that she is willing to take a chance and get away from that whole Oscar de la Renta boringness that women in her position often go for. It was a good interesting choice.

  6. I really liked the dress when i saw it... I like her style in general, very classy, but modern and not boring at all...

    Ah, about the poll in my blog: Steve Madden's customer service people contacted me because I didn't get through with an order (the shoes and the boots in the right hand side of my blog). I replied that the shipping costs were too hefty for my liking so I decided not to buy. They asked me back to try and give them a figure of what would be acceptable to me and said that they would take it into consideration next time they reviewed international shipping costs... I don't know wheter it will be much use, but just in case, I put the poll in. The question is how much shipping would you pay per pair of shoes (taking into account that they are coming from the US). If you or any of your readers would like to answer, it'd be great!!!

  7. Hi there-of course, such a debatable topic! I liked her choice, not predictable or boring.

  8. She knew that dress would make a statement and cause debates and people to read into it. It surely wasn't an accident that the family was color-coordinated. But what I loved the most was that little peck on the nose the new president gave to her on stage.

    x Grayburn

  9. after reading your post I am convinced that she didn't do too badly wearing that dress.

    It's funny I didn't really pay much attention on her dress when I was watching the clip. I was paying more attention to Oprah who was crying among the crowd! :)

  10. This is the most intelligent post I have read on that dress so far.

  11. I will def take a lot of notice on her outfits. Her style is pretty amazing.

  12. You are so right about everything. Between Hillary and that moron from Alaska, the suit has been ruined for me.

    The other great thing about Michelle Obama is that she dares to show her arms.The last bare arms in the White House belonged to Jackie Kennedy!

    Having a stylish Black First Lady is the second best thing about the election.

  13. Love the topic. She will be a classy first lady. I think the dress was a good choice and that it captured the moment perfectly. One of the things I admire about her is her strenght, intelligence and her ability to be fashion savy. Not since Jackie O has there been a first lady that takes new chances with fashion like she does. Impressive.

  14. style-fashion =you8 November 2008 at 20:08

    i agree with you...Can we give the suit thing a break.Its a new day

  15. To add some cultural representations as is a dress that in Chinese culture signifies wealthy and prosperity... I really loved it...

  16. MO has a fantastic bold style unique for a 1st lady, and she is going to inspire women to be more feminine, more original and have more fun with clothing - bringing sunshine to the people around them. I can't wait for more creative dresses and accessories to shred off these dreary financial blues.

  17. Fab post - and look, you're even name-dropping Foucault in your blog posts!

    I think Michelle looked fab - interestingly enough, she wore another winning red dress for her 'tour' around the White House today.

    I'm so glad she eschewed the matchy-matchy pant-suit option, which is Hilary's wardrobe staple. Seriously, the woman owns a pant suit in every colour of the rainbow. Nothin' worse than a lilac pant-suit...


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