Michelle’s #Bowdown Dress an Overrated Rare Mis-step

Regular readers know that while I generally wear rags, myself, I love fashion and sometimes write on it. When it comes to first ladies, I think Michelle Obama nails it more often than blows it, but I honestly am not getting all the media-gasping #bowdown fuss caused by this black and blue Carolina Herrera-designed gown she wore at last night’s State Dinner.

Bowdown-worthy? I don’t think so. The gown is nice enough, I guess; it doesn’t look comfortable, though. The skirt looks stiff and heavy, the black over-bodice seems movement-inhibiting and — much worse — it cuts right across the First Lady’s tummy, accentuating her hips and making her seem like she has a tummy, which I don’t believe she does. Mrs. Obama is very fit; this gown makes her seem less so. It’s “too-much-baggage” of a dress. Instead of Michelle Obama wearing the hell out of a dress, as she often does, this dress is wearing the hell out of her.

Dress, hair, make-up all seem like too much costuming, and it makes her look large, exhausted and rather old. I’m seeing the dress described as “regal”. The design might be, but Mrs. Obama doesn’t look regal in it, and that’s a shame because “regal” is precisely how I have described her in other styles:

Michelle Obama wearing Naeem Khan, State Dinner welcoming India, AP Photo Susan Walsh

Called her “regal” in this dress, too. In fact, this purple gown with the blingy green belt may be my all-time favorite gown on her.

Wearing Doo-Ri Chung at State Dinner welcoming South Korea. How GORGEOUS is she?

The grouping may not have been ready for the shot, but hair, makeup, dress — it’s perfection. She is youthful, sleek, commanding, stunning.

Put Mrs. Obama in something elegant and a bit slinky and she owns it, powerfully. Last night’s Herrera creation, unfortunately owned her.

I understand what she was going for — you’re the first lady, you’re hosting France, why not include a bit of haute couture? — but this was way too much dress for a figure best suited to softer draping and trimmer cuts. To me, all that #bowdown nonsense seems like over-compensation for a rare fashion mis-step.

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  • Suzanna

    What happened to her eyebrows?! Somewhere in between the high/thin and these would be best… But I prefer the surprised/judgmental eyebrows look compared to these. :/

  • CSmith

    Agree. Loved the two dresses you pictured. I really like the color of the dress she wore to host the French, but the style just did not work for her. Would love to see that periwinkle color in a more column-dress design.

  • Courtney F.

    I wonder if she turned to Oprah for inspiration on this one–it looks a lot like the dresses she sometimes sports on the cover of her magazine. And they work for her, since gowns with some structure flatter a fuller-figured woman. But on Mrs. O, the look translates to too much bulk!

  • TapestryGarden

    I kept hearing about the dress and imagining some incredible creation. Honestly it looks more like they pulled the curtains from the Blue Room and draped them around her. It was really odd looking, not flattering at all, not elegant. Sort of like Scarlett O’Hara meets Oprah or something…not to mention it the cost would feed a 3rd World Country for a year. I appreciate Princess Kate who wears off the rack or appears multiple times in the same outfit. We don’t expect our First Lady to look like a frump but this dress creates really bad optics…in more ways than one.

  • perpper

    In other words, “yes dear, that dress does make you look fat.” And yes, she does look best in grecian-drape type things, a style that I personally love. She doesn’t wear necklaces much, either, which I just noticed — I like that.

  • Käthe

    Ugh those painted eyebrows…why on earth do women DO that to themselves? Awful.

    In general I am just tired of being told that I should “bow down” to Michelle or “bow down” to Lady Gaga or “bow down” to ~Bey and Jay~. I’m starting to feel like the prophet Daniel these days.

  • Janet

    I love the idea of that dress and the color was terrific, but yes, it was not “the” dress for her. Or for many other women, I might add. That gold Naeem Kahn dress, on the other hand – ai-yi-yi!! I think that is the best dress she has ever worn.

  • CSmith

    Didn’t realize the dress is actually more of a straight skirt with an over skirt. It would have looked much better without that, or maybe a very short train in the back instead.

  • Tweety58

    Marie Antoinette,”Let them eat brussels sprouts.”

  • Meg

    I am so happy she covered her shoulders I don’t care about the rest of the dress.

  • TXRed

    Oh, yes. Keep the skirt, shorten it a tad (tea-length would be more flattering and safer on steps) and lose the train. Perhaps lower the waist a touch as well, and add a touch of blue to the sleeves? But the overskirt really doesn’t flatter Mrs. Obama.

  • ladybird

    I’m bored with First Ladies’ gowns. I want to know what their husband’s have done for me lately. And in her case….well, you E.S. and I are in agreement.

  • Johnny Mopp

    With all the support Mr. Obama has given homosexual interests one would think that the FLATUS’ dress designers would create flattering rather than laughable fashions for her.