By Kuae Kelch Mattox
Well it didn’t take long, did it? Just days after the Obamas pulled the moving van up to the White House, the fashion police tried to zero in for the kill…We loved the yellow inauguration dress. Ooh, that off the shoulder white dress just didn’t work. What’s the designer’s name anyway? What was that flowery frock she was wearing at the National Cathedral? Now we hear that the Black Artists Association is upset because Michelle Obama didn’t wear any inaugural outfits by African American designers.
“It’s fine and good if you want to be all ‘Kumbaya’ and ‘We Are the World’ by representing all different countries. But if you are going to have Isabel Toledo do the inauguration dress, and Jason Wu do the evening gown, why not have Kevan Hall, B Michael, Stephen Burrows or any of the other black designers do something too?” BAA cofounder Amnau Eele told Women’s Wear Daily.
C’mon, give me a break. Michelle Obama has barely set foot in her new dressing room and now she's getting pounded because she didn't wear an outfit from a black designer? Who really cares? Whatever happened to simply picking the best outfit, regardless of who designed it, the one that fits the best and looks the best on you? Never mind that she's still got four years and many more outfits to go in the White House. And remember that timeless vision of an inclusive society, where people will be judged not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character? How on earth will we ever fully realize that dream when there are those who believe that we are beholden to the other simply by virtue of our race?
The BAA contends that Ms. Obama had “seven opportunities” to wear an outfit from a black designer. “Why wasn’t she wearing the clothes of a black designer? That was our moment.” I beg to differ. It wasn’t ‘your’ moment. It was Barack Obama's moment. Oh, by the way, who designed his suit? Haven't heard anything about that, have we?
Quite honestly, I'm growing weary of all this talk about what Michelle Obama is wearing. Where’s the real news here? It’s severely lacking in substance, and if I were a fly on the wall in the White House, I suspect Michelle Obama might be tired of it as well. We’re in the middle of a recession here. Our economy is fractured. Folks are struggling to make ends meet. We’re worried about our children and their future. I'd much rather see this fashion frenzy energy turn to some of the issues where Mrs. Obama can make real headway, like family friendly work policies, equal pay for equal work, taking care of the needs of military families and closing the minority achievement gap.
I am stunned that a woman with two Ivy League degrees and a wealth of professional experience has been reduced to the mere and mundane discussion of her fashion sense. If women want to stop being judged on superficial attributes like looks and fashion, then they should take special care to report on the issues that really matter. There are far bigger fish to fry, and what she wears, how she wears it and who designed it doesn’t even form a blip on my radar.