As fashion insiders gushed over Michelle Obama’s ruby chiffon and velvet gown by Jason Wu, an observer noted that the First Lady was the biggest thing to happen to fashion in decades. And it wasn’t an overstatement from a diehard Obama supporter; it was completely accurate.
Unlike many of her predecessors who were caricatured as either dowdy or vain, Mrs. Obama has managed to build her status as a deep and serious person and simultaneously wear high-end fashion. Her much ballyhooed ability to wear high and low pieces is exaggerated; she almost exclusively wears designer (with J.Crew the lone mall brand on heavy rotation). And yet, there is remarkably little criticism about her spending on clothes. I think our acceptance of a fashion-loving First Lady is a combination of factors – Mrs. Obama is indisputably smart, with an Ivy League degree and a high-flying legal career. Secondly, I think our culture is becoming more accepting of woman as holistic beings – they can love fashion and be smart and weighty amongst a whole host of other things. Power players like Anna Wintour, Marissa Mayer, and the First Lady prove this.
Because Mrs. Obama’s designer clothes and official causes aren’t seen at odds with each other, the fashion world has achieved a new degree of clout. Her previous official causes were fighting childhood obesity and supporting military families. Her unofficial cause was promoting American clothing manufacturing, a cause the fashion world is eager for her to embrace yet again.