Wednesday, February 6, 2008
The Michelle Obama Fashion Retrospective
Politicans and their spouses often aren't the best dressed people. Take the Clintons when they first left Arkansas or Laura Bush when she left Texas for the White House. These are people who don't spend a lot of time thinking about clothes. They just wore whatever wasn't wrinkled. Hillary wore lots of head bands. Bill had a cheap watch. And my father, Papa Snob, regularly remarked that Laura looked like her shoes still had cow shit on them.
But once Washington got them they cleaned up OK, although I'd still argue that Hillary hasn't quite found that magic pantsuit that minimizes the dumpiness. Male politicians are lucky. They can just wear a dark suit and disappear into the background. But not women. If you don't have your hair and clothes right the criticism will be fast and brutal.
That's why it's shocking when a politician or political spouse actually knows how to match. Which brings us to our woman of the hour.
If there was a race for political spouses, Michelle Obama would be the one to beat. Smart, charming, brutally honest and talented -- she kills in many categories, but if there's a race for best dressed she has no contemporaries, save for the almost equally fashionable Cindy McCain who also seems to know how to match and throw the occasional outfit together on the Republican side.
But she doesn't push the Talbots envelope as hard as Michelle. She's on the edgy side conservative women's dress (if that makes any sense.) Basically, she takes something boring and ordinary and makes it fabulous.
Anyway. Here it is. My celebration to one of Michelle's greatest bodies of work. I'll write something up every time I see her in something eyebrow raising. If you have any favorite Michelle Obama fashion pics that caught your eye, send them to me: email@example.com.
Classic style: I love a white blouse that goes further than just buttons and pointed collars. This one is poetic yet primed for politics. And while I couldn't find a photograph that would let me see it completely, that belt peeking out in the pic on the right looks fun. This shot is also a good shot of Michelle's hair, which is thick and almost always styled in a flipped bob. It's a "killer" bob so deadly that I'm almost positive that Michelle's killer bob could kick Condi Rice's killer bob's ass.
The Art of the Puffy Sleeve: Michelle is a big fan of the puffy sleeve. I've never seen sleeves this puffy before. But it's an elegant, billowy puffy, not a Seinfeld-esque, Renaissance Fair throwback. She can't seem to get enough of them, and I'm guessing they all come from the same designer. They really make her stand-out from the other First Lady wannabes who don't seem to have a signature look. Michelle owns the puffy sleeve. It's her pill box hat. It's all hers.
The Little Black Dress: When I saw this picture of Michelle I thought, wow. That's some crazy confidence. She strolls into every room like she owns it. And how could she not own it in this belted black knit dress. She keeps it simple with some pearls and she's ready to press the flesh with folks she's never met before.
The Need for Tweed: I love the cut of this purple tweed suit. It's highly flattering to Michelle's naturally curvy waist line. And the cascade of pearls around her neck make it officially one of the best prete-a-porter suits on the campaign trail.
The Patterned Skirt: Usually political wives are confined to a narrow definition of fashion - pantsuits, suit dresses and things a grandmother from the 1950s would wear. The "Aunt Bea," so to speak. Michelle eschews all of that, finding ways to dress conservatively and look fly at the same time. The pearls say "First Lady" but the printed black A-line skirt says "Party Over Here."
The Power Suit: I love the sleeves on this suit. They hint back to her love off puffy sleeves, but instead of being whimsical, these sleeves are more like little bell bottoms for your arms. They're fun, yet simultaneously serious. And like the purple tweed suit, this gray pinstripe has a flattering umpire cut with wavy flourishes from the waistline.
First Lady In Red: I already nominated this suit as the hottest red suit in politics. Hillary wore a great red suit to the State of the Union. Cindy McCain's fond of a hot Red State number. But Michelle gets still points for pushing the envelope into chic, puffy sleeve territory. Wearing just a nice, tailored red suit would be too safe for Michelle. She can't look like Hillary or Cindy. She's got to jazz it up. She's got to put her stamp on it. Puffy sleeve trumps all. Could Hillary pull this off? We think not.
Superwoman: It's a bird. It's a plane. It's ... Oh my God she looks fabulous! I still haven't been able to determine if this is the world's sexiest raincoat or an amazingly belted dress. Either way, I'd like two please if it will make me look like a 9 foot tall supermodel. Now, I'm not quite feeling the boots. Mostly because they appear to be brown and suede as apposed to black, hard leather and amazing. Like a pair of tall riding boots. And I don't like skinny low heels. Thicker low heels might have been a better choice. But the dress/coat makes up for any sins the boots may have committed.