January 25, 2009

Going with Option B: On Michelle’s Fashion Sense.

Posted in Fashion Criticism at 12:13 am by the Green-Eyed Siren

Well, my friends, this morning I wrote 1300 imperfect words on my reactions to the inauguration. I have been very tongue-tied in its aftermath, to the point where I had no idea what to blog about for the last several days; half of me wanted to go for the grand gesture toward history, and the other half of me wanted to sound off about Michelle Obama’s clothing choices. This morning’s 1300 words spoke to the history of it all, but, upon review, I’m not going to post them. Many, many others have written on this topic, making my comments redundant at best. All in all, not worth your time to read.

So, instead, on the theory that there’s always room for more fashion criticism, I’m going with Option B: a quick impression of the new First Lady’s clothing-related errors of the day. Probably twice as imperfect as what I wrote for Option A, but at least it’s half as long, so the slapdash writing will sail by much faster.

Now that the inauguration has come and gone I have arrived at the sad realization that Michelle Obama will not be living up to the stylistic ambitions I had for her. The daytime ensemble by Isabel Toledo, a designer for whom I have a great deal of respect, was…busy. With that abundance of rhinestones the First Lady was far too sparkly for a daytime event, and while I have no problem whatsoever with oversized costume jewelry, that necklace was atrocious. The texture on coat and dress was overwhelming; far better to have matched the color exactly but limited the texture to the dress and kept the coat in a smooth fabric. I confess that I liked the color, which is very fashion-forward at the moment, although because it was an in-between shade it came across inconsistently on TV. And, considering that these are people who know how to put on a show, I sincerely wish they had made sure Jill Biden’s ensemble wouldn’t clash so dreadfully with the chartreuse. Still, I also liked the green gloves.

The inaugural ball gown, though, was a far bigger disappointment to me. The overall shape of the dress was fine, and I’m a little curious about exactly how that bodice was constructed. However, I do not understand what would possess Jason Wu to design gathers at the waist for a grown woman; if he had to do it that way, at least he could have gone with some kind of ruched waistband or something similar that would have made the gathers make a little more sense, although that would probably only have further emphasized her pear shape. No, on second thought, better to consider princess seams, or a simple A-line skirt, or possibly inverted pleats like those on one of his other dresses, or, you know, anything else.

And, good Lord, the explosion of rhinestone-studded feathery blobs throughout the dress was further evidence that both she and Jason Wu need to have a better understanding of the value of restraint. If those peculiar decorative elements had only been on the bodice, well, maybe I would have been better satisfied, but liberally scattered across the skirt they really looked kind of like a sparkly swan explosion. All in all, just too, too, too, too much going on there, junking it up.

I just can’t believe how many positive reviews this disastrous dress has received. Although I will say that at the beginning of the night the CNN “fashion analyst” guy looked like he was really trying pretty hard not to say it was miserably juvenile. By the last round of interviews, though, he had clearly gotten the message that he had better say nice things, because he became increasingly enthusiastic as the night progressed.

So there you have it. We’re in the afterglow of one of the most thrilling events in our country’s recent history, and all I can do is complain about the First Lady’s clothes. But I had such high hopes, and she’s being dressed by someone who is considered to have unerring instincts for what will be good on a person, and she is so beautiful and appealing…well, I guess it’s no wonder that I’ve had trouble getting to the totally blissed-out state of transcendence that everyone else seems to have achieved during the inauguration. Hopefully it will take me longer to become disillusioned by our new President’s effectiveness than it took for me to lose my faith in Michelle’s fashion sense.

See, only slightly more than half of what you almost had to sit through. Aren’t you relieved?



  1. Green Eyed Siren's Mom said,

    I, too, had fashion reservations about the outfits that Michelle Obama wore for the inaugural events.

    I actually liked the white ball gown that she wore. I just wish that she would have worn a better foundation garment or stood up straighter or something. She looked a little dumpy in that dress. Perhaps some of their Hollywood friends could give her tips on how to stand for “red carpet events”.

    My big problem, however, was with her daytime outfit. The coat didn’t have buttons!! It put me 50 years back to the Jackie Kennedy days. She was definitely a fashion leader/icon. We all waited to see what she would wear and tried to emulate everything she did.

    So all of us ended up wearing winter coats that, thankfully, had buttons but were lacking collars and had sleeves that ended slightly below our elbows. (We wore long leather gloves to cover up the exposed arm flesh.) The length of the coat was similar to what Mrs. Biden wore to this election. As you can imagine, these were not the warmest of coats.

    I remember bitter cold Chicago winter days, standing on a corner waiting for a bus freezing, shivering, but oh-so-fashionable. It took a while, but one day I woke up to the realization that Jackie Kennedy’s life was a tiny bit different from mine. She never had to stand out in the cold; all she had to do was walk out her door to a heated limousine that dropped her at the her next appointment. The coats that she wore were, indeed, beautiful, but suited only to the lifestyle of the rich and famous—-in other words, a bit “elitist”.

    Looking at Michelle Obama at the Inauguration in her button-less coat on that very cold Washington afternoon, I was reminded of Jackie Kennedy. I know that the message was unintended, but I thought that her outfit also said “Elitist”.

    I did think, however, that the outfit was rather pretty. Minus the rhinestone necklace, it would be perfect for the Easter Egg Roll on the White House lawn.

    I am very happy that Obama is our new president and I look forward to watching his family in the White House. And bottom line, does it really matter what the First Lady is wearing?

  2. bb said,

    Someone should ask Green Eyed Siren’s Mom about go-go boots.

  3. Green Eyed Siren's Mom said,

    Go-go boots! Very stylish….verrrry sexy…….once you got the hang of them.

    I remember the first time I bought a pair. For those of you too young to remember, they were made of a sort of stretchy, shiny plastic leather kind of material. And they didn’t have zippers. (I seem to have a closure theme running through my comments, don’t I?) So they were quite tight fitting.

    Anyway, I was so excited when I brought my first pair home, I had to try them on immediately and show them to Green Eyed Siren’s Dad. I pulled them on over my bare feet and legs. The look was a huge success. (I believe I compared rather positively to Emma Peel–Check out”the Avengers” if you are not sure who she is–it really was a compliment.)

    Then it was time to take them off and fix dinner or whatever. The combination of my slightly sweaty legs and the unbreathable, tight fitting boots was not good! Green Eyed Siren’s Dad and I pulled on the boots for what seemed like hours with no results–I was ready to cut the dumb things off! Finally, I was able, with the assistance of half a jar of talcum powder, to roll the things down and off of my legs.

    Trust me…..I never wore go-go boots bare legged again. But I did, indeed, wear them until the fashion world had moved on to other things. I also think that the Green Eyed Siren had arrived on the scene and I had better things to do than spend time putting on and taking off go-go botos.

    And by that time, Green Eyed Siren’s maternal grandmother had taken on the go-go boot responsibility in the family. She had a pair that were slightly shorter and had a zipper. She wore them every winter until shortly before her death. I can close my eyes and see her with her white go-go boots, her Jackie Kennedy-style short sleeve coat, and her hair, teased and sprayed, under her plastic rain bonnet. Quite a fashion statement for a woman in her seventies! May we all have her style and panache when we are that age!!

    Thanks, b.b., for reminding me of go-go boots. These days I spend my time in Lands’ End slip on boots. (I am thinking of hot-gluing them to my feet in October and then having them surgically removed in April.) It was nice to remember when I was more care-free and fashion forward.

  4. Mom, I think you need a blog. Go-go boots, Jell-O advocacy, entry-level DSLR user, whatever you like. The cyberworld needs you!

    I vividly remember Grandma’s white go-go boots. She was definitely fab. I guess we learned from a master.

  5. Brigitte said,

    Egads! Apropos Mrs. Obama’s daytime outfit – I thought the big ornamental gathering at the neckline was actually part of the outfit, not a necklace. Do I need to check my glasses? Either way it was a bit much – she seems like a gracious, forthright woman – but her wardrobe choices have me furrow my brows – as a dear friend of mine suggested about the evening gown: it reminded her of a chenille bedspread from the fifties. But, in the scheme of life does any of it matter?

  6. Brigitte: I think it wasn’t a necklace but was actually some goofy kind of pin. But I’m pretty sure I read that it wasn’t part of the design.

    All: just for the record, I was NOT saying to my mother, “Get your own blog!” I was only saying how I thought the world could benefit from more of her observations. If she chooses to limit them to my comments section I will be perfectly content, but I know she has some definite opinions involving Jell-O that might simply not come up in this forum.

  7. Green Eyed Siren's Mom said,

    You under-estimate me. You know I can turn any conversation around to jell-o.

  8. Brigitte said,

    Are we talking about the neckline trim, about three inches wide, that made the whole outfit look like a mother of the bride choice?

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