Fawning over FLOTUS Fashion.
by Kuae Kelch Mattox
I have to admit. It’s hard for me to stomach another article about Michelle Obama’s clothing, let alone an entire book. I’m always the one who tells friends to “give it a rest” when they start the conversation with “Did you see what she wore?" I have implored folks to elevate the discussion to reflect more of her substance. I have knocked the fashionistas for making a big whoop over the First Lady’s fashions and chastised the Black Artists Association for lamenting that she didn’t wear inaugural outfits by African American designers. Now here I am reviewing “Michelle Style: Celebrating the First Lady of Fashion” (HarperCollins), a book that heralds Mrs. Obama’s uber popular sense of fashion and style. Go figure.
Despite my skepticism, author Mandi Norwood, a former editor at Mademoiselle, manages to deftly weave together a tapestry of fabrics, colors and designers into a one-stop chronicle of Michelle Obama’s blast onto the fashion stage, detailing the enormous impact the First Lady’s clothing choices have made on the fashion world and in closets across the country. Take Mrs. Obama’s national daytime TV debut on ABC’s The View, wearing a $148 black and white sheath from the boutique chain White House, Black Market. Stores fielded thousands of calls from viewers before the show was even over, traffic on the website spiked and droves of women flocked to the stores. Norwood says Mrs. Obama’s choice of dress helped change the tone of what America thought about her.
“Mrs. Obama’s appearance on The View was a triumph. She had reached out and held hands with a critical mainstream audience. What’s more, she was softly spoken and styled in a way that was aspirational and accessible – to everyone,” writes Norwood.
Similarly, she dazzled a late night audience with a J. Crew outfit ordered online just days after Republican Party vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin had been lambasted in the press for spending more than $150,000 of the party’s money on clothing and accessories. Norwood says it was a “turning point for American style makers who have historically feared being linked with the forty plus market…Mrs. Obama’s style, the fashion community was realizing with amazement and delight, was truly authentic.”
Michelle Style is organized by significant events and color palettes, one chapter chronicling Mrs. Obama’s decision to wear purple on the final primary night, another her “Blue Debut” on the opening night of the Democratic National Convention.
“Sparkling and svelte in a silk crepe sheath dress in the most regal of purples, Mrs. O, similar in height and as forceful a presence in front of the camera or up there on the stage, appeared as presidential as her husband,” Norwood writes.