I knew just by reading the headline to Jenna Sauer’s post, “It’s Time to Shut Up About Michelle’s Damn Dress!” that I was going to agree. And that, I do. I would only add one other point that has been nagging me about the recent torrent of op-eds, articles, and blog posts having to do with FLOTUS’ sartorial choices.
What Michelle Obama wears and how she wears it has been part of news cycles since the campaign. Certainly, this isn’t unusual. The public and press have always commented on the First Lady’s fashion choices and style. Her role as an icon of ideal American womanhood is so institutionalized that we even archive some of her clothes in the Smithsonian. But – even taking into account the flack that Mamie Eisenhower took for her bangs – I don’t remember any other First Lady having to endure as much scrutiny as Michelle Obama has. And it’s not just her clothes that’s being evaluated and assessed. It’s every part of her body:
- arms (should she wear sleeveless dress/tops?)
- legs (should she really be wearing shorts?)
- eyebrows (should she soften the arch so she appears less angry?)
- height (consider the countless words devoted to whether or not she should wear flats)
- and the list goes on . . .
To be fair, I have to admit that I too participate in FLOTUS StyleWatch – though marginally, (e.g., posting some of my favorite outfits to the Threadbared FB wall). But recent comments about her clothes seem particularly cranky and finger-waggy to me.
I’m against the policing of any woman’s body. Full stop. But the racist legacy of policing the bodies of woman of color, in particular, is the reason I’m especially uneasy with the ways in which some in the fashion industry/media are so closely scrutinizing Obama. That they seem to feel so entitled to judge and comment, so self-righteous in their finger wagging is what makes me so uncomfortable. Bridget Foley of WWD actually argues that Obama’s choice not to wear an American designer during the state visit of President Hu Jintao was tantamount to an act of misconduct. She uses the word “embarrassing.” Now that’s embarrassing.
Look, there’s no doubt that Michelle Obama is a friend to Fashion but Fashion People, that don’t mean you own her.