Last night, appearing on stage to celebrate her husband’s next four years as President, Michelle Obama did something interesting: she wore an old dress. Specifically, she wore a burgundy Michael Kors brocade dress she has worn TWICE — count ‘em — before. Given the amount of attention her clothes get, and what her choices can do for a designer, this was a clear statement about a desire to move the conversation. We’ve talked about this dress already, after all. Now let’s talk about what not getting a new dress means.
Last night in their last ditch rallies, both Ann Romney and Michelle Obama, first-ladies-in-waiting, demonstrated interesting differences in cover-up style. I am not talking about political subterfuge. I’m talking about coats.
Whoops. Last night both Michelle Obama and Ann Romney wore matching hot pink ensembles to watch their hubbies, in similarly matching dark suit-white-shirt-little flag-pin ensembles – verbally duke it out at Hofstra University. Given how close this election seems to be, both though it was probably time for a bold statement, reaching out to women, attracting the “soft” vote, showing awareness of healthcare issues, etc. It’s just unfortunate they chose the same statement.
Last night at the DNC, during a pre-speech convention interview, First Lady Michelle Obama (then wearing DVF) told Deborah Norville , who was excitedly asking her what she was going to wear on stage, that she didn’t know, and she would pick what she likes. Frankly, after seeing her choice — a dress by an African-American female designer from Detroit, Tracy Reese — I believe this like I believe gullible isn’t in the dictionary.
Despite having displayed an admirable consistency during the campaign thus far, dress if not policy-wise, yesterday night Mitt Romney gave up the sartorial fight, and switched sides. Yes, like so many of his winning predecessors before him, including Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, and George W Bush (once), for his speech accepting the Republican party nomination for President, he wore…a red tie. Why do we care?
Oscar de la Renta, the designer who was for decades the bipartisan go-to man for first ladies from Nancy Reagan to Hillary Clinton to Laura Bush (he even made Jenna Bush’s wedding dress), but who has been somewhat sidelined during the Obama years, stepped back onto centre stage last night in Tampa — metaphorically speaking — thanks to Ann Romney, whose brilliant, very Republican red, belted dress came from the brand. It was a meaningful choice, alluding to Washington tradition as well as the LA-NY-DC financial/social nexus, for whom Mr De La Renta is a go-to name. And it put Mrs Romney in pretty stark opposition to Michelle Obama.
Allow me to toot our own horn here for a moment, and note there’s a very interesting piece today in the FT by my colleague Stephanie Kirchgaessner on various industries and the presidential candidate they support. Romney seems to have come out on top in a bunch of them, at least as far as donations go but at least one other industry that wasn’t on the list skews very heavily BO (unfortunate initials, I know): fashion.
Mitt Romney and his wife Ann Romney celebrate their victory in the Illinois GOP primary. Getty Images
The elevation of Mitt Romney to Republican nominee presumptive appears to have acted as a sort of spur to his wife Ann when it comes to her entrance into the imagineering race.
Michelle Obama famously has a blog (mrs-o.org) devoted to her style, after all, which puts her front and centre in many cultural conversations and positions her as a champion of business without her or her camp having to say a word — other than “J Crew” or “Jason Wu” or ”Narciso Rodriguez.” It’s taken until now for Mrs Romney to begin to fight fashion fire with fashion fire.
Mitt and Ann Romney on 'CBS This Morning'. CBS image
Or so it seems. After a primary season marked mostly by a sea of unidentifiable red suits, earlier this week Mrs R appeared with her husband on “CBS This Morning” wearing a T-shirt printed with bird images by the New York designer Reed Krakoff. It was the first time as far as I know that Mrs Romney had dipped a public toe in the branded fashion world.
And it was an…interesting choice, for two reasons.
In a week of big American political news, from Rick Santorum’s campaign “suspension” to the furore over a comment from a democratic strategist over Ann Romney’s stay-at-home Mom-dom, one piece of new has, at least on-line, almost trumped them all: the bombshell revelation, in a piece in American Elle, that Hillary Clinton’s staff is secretly horrified at her penchant for hair scrunchies. If anyone wants to debate whether or not appearance matters when it comes to politics, I think the viral reaction to this information, which was buried in a much longer, non-fashion profile, pretty much answers the question.