29 January 2009

Are you a Jackie or a Michelle?

New York Magazine has managed to stir up muck and resentment where there really needn't be any on the ever pertinent topic of Michelle Obama's clothes. Oh, and how the fashion industry is probably still racist.
But despite such liberal goodwill, the industry is overwhelmingly white, both in its makeup and its view of its customer. Not long ago, Stefano Pilati, the designer of Yves Saint Laurent, saw no problem telling Robin Givhan of the Washington Post that black models just don’t look right in his clothes...

...An even more vexing question when it comes to Michelle is the fact that she uses fashion but is not defined by her interest in it. She’s no Jackie Kennedy, whose tenure as First Lady is remembered precisely for her interest in style. This seems an unlikely course for Michelle Obama. Here is a beautiful, well-dressed woman for whom fashion is a sidebar. Hers is the kind of résumé that can induce a certain self-hatred among people who’ve devoted their lives to tracking hemlines and hairdos.

Michelle Obama seems poised to lead the fashion world to the promised land, where every woman can have great style. But for fashionistas, as of yet, that is a very confusing place to be.
I am in such a rage over this pointless article that I don't really even know where to begin. What in the world are they talking about? How did this get published? A fashion editor musing on the existence of a nice looking woman who has accomplishments beyond the realm of the runway and how this fact makes her feel badly about her life and singular mind as a result? Gripping.

I've never been a fan of the elitism of fashion editors (ironic, yes, I'm aware.) Fashion is not a particularly difficult thing to figure out, and you'd think that the existence of so many damn magazines and blogs (again, I know) devoted to the subject would mean that all of these writers and designers really do want to explain to the masses the art of dressing one's self. Yet when a 40-year-old woman who doesn't live for Balmain manages to put together an outfit, these editors start ge
tting very territorial.

It's as if to say "we all love her for her cute clothes, but it should really stop there." This is probably why all the glossies love Jackie Kennedy so much. She was ONLY about the clothes. Michelle has terrific style and knows what looks are appropriate for her status and figure and is a great reminder that women who don't spend hours a day obsessing over trends and meeting with their "friends on the 4th floor of Barney's" can manage to have lives, children and careers and still look nice.

Michelle Obama is a modern, professional woman and it would be a disservice to her intelligence and successes if she was indeed "remembered precisely for her interest in style." In this respect, I hope the comparisons to Jackie stop.

Mad Men asked women whether they were a Jackie or a Marilyn. The question for our (style) times is whether you are a Jackie or a Michelle. I don't care how similar their outfits or haircuts are, these women are fundamentally different and, Michelle at least, should be celebrated for that fact.

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