I clearly remember the day Barack Obama won the Illinois senate seat by an overwhelming majority in 2004. The media was frenzied over this young politico with the “funny” name winning by so many votes, and his face was all over the TV and papers for weeks. It was then I first heard about Michelle Obama, Barack’s wife, former boss and 5-foot-10, hard-working black woman from Chicago’s South Side. Love was in the air.
Over the last year, finding articles, interviews or photos of Michelle was just as easy as finding press about Barack. For the first time in a long time (eight years, at least) a first lady had become noteworthy, not just because her husband was president, but because she was worth talking about.
In the March issue of Vogue, gay fashion icon, editor at large and Obama-family fashion strategist André Leon Talley writes about his experiences with Michelle when it comes to family, fashion and philosophy.
Obviously, the article focuses on fashion, it being Vogue and all, but even in her fashion choices, Michelle is a down-to-earth and most importantly — real — woman.
Some critics made noise about the plain black cardigan the First Lady-to-be wore on November 4 in Grant Park over her Narciso Rodriguez dress. She is unrepentant: “I’m not going to pretend that I don’t care about it,” Mrs. Obama says of the criticism. ‘But I also have to be very practical. In the end, someone will always not like what you wear — people just have different tastes. Some will think that a sweater was horrible, [but] I was cold; I needed that sweater!”
Talley expresses the point beautifully in the article, with quotes from friends and family members, and Michelle herself: Sure, she likes clothes, but she is by no means a first lady who will sit pretty in her Chanel and play hostess for political big-wigs.
“Michelle Obama is a full-blown, grown-up woman,” Oprah Winfrey tells Talley in the article. “An authentically empowered real woman who looks and feels like a modern woman in the twenty-first century, allowing us to see the best of ourselves in her. [She's] bringing a sense of connection and accessibility to that position that no nation has ever witnessed.”
Michelle has the whole world watching her, and as Talley points out, talking about her clothes. While she can’t please everyone, she knows what needs to come first:
“I love clothes,” she admits. “First and foremost, I wear what I love. That’s what women have to focus on: what makes them happy and what makes them feel comfortable and beautiful. If I can have any impact, I want women to feel good about themselves and have fun with fashion.”
Between Rachel Maddow’s Vogue appearance in December and this article about Michelle, I’m considering a subscription — while I cannot afford the clothes, I certainly love to read about amazing woman who can.
What do you think of Michelle Obama’s style?