Michelle Obama

  

Note to any woman considering her dressing plans as we approach the party season: the single most suggestive body part to flash these days is not cleavage (despite what those Victoria’s Secret angels say), not legs and not even the slices of side that certain fashion designers are pushing with their weird cut-out dresses. No, it’s a well-muscled arm. Stockings have nothing on biceps when it comes to shocking.

It was inevitable, I suppose, that in l’Affaire Patraeus currently gripping the United States, clothes would come to play a part. Fashion is always a key part of any seduction narrative, because it is such a classic weapon of allure (and no, these words are not accidental). Paula Broadwell’s de facto signature has become her “toned arms” as widely and regularly displayed in various sleeveless outfits.  

This is shaping up to be a trend. Yesterday the Duchess of Cambridge wore a DVF coat – double rows of buttons, epaulets – to the Remembrance Day ceremonies, which was the VERY SAME DVF coat she wore last year. Seems to me this is a statement not unlike that of Mrs O’s wearing an old Michael Kors dress at her husband’s electoral victory moment last week. 

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. 

In one of those cosmic coincidences of timing, the last night of the Democratic convention, where President Obama talked often about the long hard, road ahead, also coincided with Fashion’s Night Out, that sybaritic extravaganza of shopping and schmoozing (well, mostly schmoozing, if you listen to retailers who Do Not Want to be Named) that also happened to mark the first day of New York Fashion Week. It made for a pretty powerful contrast. STill, my favourite fashion moment was not the Karaoke at Michael Kors, but rather what was on stage at the DNC, from Mr O’s tie to Mrs O’s new designer. 

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. 

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.