The New York Times said it perfectly: “the point of what Michelle Obama wore was never simply that it was good to mix up your wardrobe among a group of designers, but rather that clothes were most resonant when they were an expression of commitment to an idea, or an ideal, that had resonance.”
As an admirer of Michelle Obama and an advocate for social justice, I find it striking how tastefully and powerfully Michelle Obama demonstrates her beliefs from the platform she’s been given as our (former, regretfully), First Lady. She utilized the often patronizing attention the media pays to women in politics’ fashion choices and made every outfit into a statement about equality and acceptance.
During her final speech, Michelle Obama said, “Our glorious diversity — our diversities of faiths and colors and creeds — that is not a threat to who we are; it makes us who we are.” This is evident in so many of the former First Lady’s actions, from her early career working in public service to her Let Girls Learn Campaign, which works to expand education access for girls of all backgrounds. While at first hesitant to to be involved in her husband’s campaign, Michelle quickly became a strong asset, promoting policies of equality and health for all. The initially unsure First Lady quickly took advantage of her position of political power to show people what she cared about.
At her first Inaugural Ball in 2009, Michelle wore relatively new and unknown designer Jason Wu’s designs, and wore them several more times throughout her career. There is no doubt that she was being approached by some of the most high-end and well-known fashion houses for this event, so her choice to support an immigrant designer who was just starting out spoke volumes, and set precedent for her future fashion choices. Eight years later, she wore a Narciso Rodriguez dress for her meeting with Melania Trump. Rodriguez is a Cuban-American designer whose family immigrated to the United States before he entered the design scene. This choice championed the immigrant success story the Obamas have encouraged throughout Barack’s career, and opposed Trump’s strict anti-immigration policies. Michelle often wore American designers, in an attempt to support American business, and made statements such as wearing a Gucci dress the day of Italy’s vote on the referendum seen as a verdict on former Prime Minister Matteo Renzi.
Michelle Obama has never been one to stay in her husband’s shadow. Always making bold fashion choices and drawing criticism for things like exposing her arms, Michelle has put herself in the spotlight as a means of voicing her opinions and showing the world what she cares about. An exceptional First Lady and meaningful style icon, Michelle’s presence will be missed in the White House but will undoubtedly continue to flourish through her role as a powerful and active private citizen. Let her serve as an inspiration to us all to promote what we are passionate about in every platform we are given.
Read the New York Times article, What Michelle Obama Wore and Why It Mattered, here.
Emily Grew, Assistant at The First Look Image