Whether the topic is Hillary Clinton’s pantsuits, Sarah Palin’s wardrobe costs, or Michelle Obama’s dress, no woman in politics can really escape a media focus on their fashion choices, and Michelle Obama’s wardrobe has particularly been shoved into the media limelight. I feel ambivalent on this subject.
On the one hand, this, depending on how you look at it, is a positive for self identified females. Obama and other male identified politicians get to choose between suit, suit. and well, suit. Sure, there are varying styles and colors in ties and suits, but most wacky variations on that style wouldn’t be acceptable for most required to wear suits, let alone politicians. One must also realize, while there is less focus on the attire of male identified politicians, there’s still focus on other trifle matters like their flag pins (or lack thereof).
I appreciate the fact that, for people more interested in celebrity fashion than myself, the First Lady has a significant and at times inspirational position. It isn’t as if the concept of fashion is completely lacking in my life: it is a subject I take interest in and know a fair bit about. That said, in an economy such as this and with the wide variety of issues and challenges we face. there has to be something more substantial a First Lady can represent. Now, I don’t want to knock on all of the hardworking female and male representations of fashion nor do I in any way want to say that fashion is something easy and frivolous.
But if Michelle Obama were any other lady walking the red carpet, the media focus on her garments wouldn’t ruffle my feathers. Truthfully it’s the combination fashion tunnel vision and Michelle Obama’s position that irks me.
To put it bluntly, I’m sick of hearing about what Michelle Obama is wearing, I want to hear about what she’s doing and saying. I have heard her speak on many occasions and I have found her speeches as inspirational and powerful as her husband’s, yet we choose to focus on Barack’s words and Michelle’s dress. She has a lot to offer during this administration and hopefully we will get to see it. Michelle Obama has enormous potential to change the image and role of the First Lady from fashionista to activist. She could even do both sides of the coin a favor and combine the two. Who knows? The possibilities are endless.
But focusing solely on her wardrobe doesn’t do her justice. Barack Obama’s presidential campaign represented change and hope for a different future and I think that change is applicable in all areas. I hope Michelle Obama uses her position as a platform to get involved in issues in a way a First Lady has never done before. As a woman of color who has faced many of the same obstacles women at Mills face today, she has the ability to inspire and encourage millions of other girls and women to become strong and powerful in the same way Mills inspires us. But no one will benefit from this if we can’t see the forest through the wardrobe.
Instead of focusing on the changes in her wardrobe, let’s focus on how Michelle Obama can change what it means to be the First Lady.
-Lola Olson, senior