Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Since I am just catching up on this inauguration thing...

did anyone else find this obsessive coverage of Michelle's wadrobe disgusting?

Here is the Times, for instance. Vigorously stylish!

Time says a bold choice.

So irritating. Reminds me of the primary races when Clinton was around.


blackmamba said...

I, actually, don't.

The woman spending a bunch of time and effort to create a specific look. And not just doing the string or pearls and an oscar de la renta.

She is picking designers who are not old white men - let's see, taiwanese, cuban, women, young people... And mixing designer clothes with antique brooches, fake pearls and J Crew.

Besides she is young, smart, confident and stylish to fault.*

What with the comparisons to Jackie O.

Obviously the press will notice.

* I am a fan

Szerelem said...

Hahaha - I was going to say pretty much what BM already has - but then I am a big fan too.

I think she looked lovely - and I loved the choice of lemograss yellow - there was this top shot of the sea of people on the podium and you could spot her right away in the sea of black and blue.

I too like that she isn't picking the same old names - and she clearly makes the clothes she wears her own...she is smarter than Jackie O could ever hope to be. (Have never been a big fan of hers anyway).
And it's nice not to see a dowdy First Lady for a change - no offense to Laura Bush.

Chevalier said...

Yep, agree with you, Veena - I can't possibly add to what The Echidne had to say about this (
What are First Ladies for? I suspect that their two most important tasks are to humanize the president and to give us all a nice empty bowl into which we can pour our preconditions, desires and fears about the gender roles in the United States. Hence the need to criticize the softness or hardness of the First Lady candidates in this presidential race, the need to find out if she dares to meddle in men's affairs or not, the need to reassure ourselves (well, for some of us) that he indeed is the boss in that family. Oh, and she is also supposed to be open to fashion critiques........What all this means for the Obamas is that we view his election as a labor contract between not just Barack Obama and the country but also between Michelle Obama and the country. Yet she is not getting paid, because she is really viewed as part and parcel of him. I'm not sure why everybody feels free to criticize the First Ladies when they are not even paid for the job.

Veena said...

BM: So you fell for it? Goody.

BM, Szer: First of all, I agree that choosing and carrying off a dress is an art, so certainly something to be appreciated in that sense. I go look the Sartoralist more than you think I do, so lets get that out of the way first.

There are two issues here - one that I was complaining about in the post was mostly the coverage (we can have a long discussion about media and gender roles and how first ladies are viewed but there is nothing new there to be said. I would just like to point out that regardless of whether she chose new / not wellknown or old popular designers, her wadrobe would still have been the major topic of discussion) and not Michelle herself though they are related enough I guess.

Here's the deal: when I think of Michelle, I see a young, smart, highly intelligent, accomplished, African-American woman which as the stereotype goes is something of an anomaly in America. The clothes she wears for some reason are one of the last things on my mind. In her position, there are an infinite number of things that she could do to inspire and improve a generation of Americans (if not the rest of the world). While bringing obscure designers to the forefront is a worthwhile cause, its just not one of the things on top of that list.

BM: I have this feeling you are doing your cynical act again. The idea that the ideal first lady is Jackie is problematic at so many levels that I am not even getting into that discussion. In a perverse way, (I know the problems associated with this statement but I am going to make it anyway) I am more comfortable with coverage of Jackie's or Laura Bush's wadrobe because what else can you cover about them anyway? Which is not true of Michelle Obama.

I must say here that I am not a fan. As much as I admire the woman, it is difficult for me to respect someone who feels the need to claim to the world that her primary responsibility is to be Mom-in-Chief. Meaning what? My only hope (like what Jason Jones said about Barack) is that I don't really think she means it, and she is saying all this just to play to the crowd. Which I think is unnecessary (I am tempted here to refer to the strange case of the wife of an ex-PM who was also elected on a change platform this side of the pond many years ago) but can understand why Michelle might not given what happened to Hillary back in 92-93.

Chevalier: In agreeance. What bothered me about Michelle (who is obv a very smart woman) throughout this election that is how complicit she was in this whole thing. But as I said, I am hoping that was about getting elected and now things might change. But not holding my breath.

blackmamba said...

Veena, glad you caught my cynicism. Btw, it is not an act.

Veena said...

BM: Are you like angry? Please fight no? We havent had a fight in ages.

Szerelem said...

I don't disagree with you about how complicit she has been in this whole positioning of herself as a very traditional First Lady. (I think this whole Mom-in-Chief is a part of that of course) but I think this was very obviously deliberately done after the whole "this is the first time I have trule been proud of my country" bit. And of course I think you are quite right in that she probably wants to avoid being looked at as another Hillary. I'd be interested to see the issues she takes on as a First Lady.

Quite honestly though, I don't think there was all that much focus on her clothes during the campaign (much to Sarah Palin's chagrin) and here again Michelle has herself drawn attention to her (and her children's) wadrobe and used it as another way to connect with the voters - she is always going on and on about J Crew for example - that's politically smart no?

Falstaff said...

I don't know that the coverage of Michelle's wardrobe is any more obsessive than the coverage of everything else about this inauguration (witness the reams and reams out there about the oath flub).

The logical consequence of turning something into a media spectacle is that every conceivable angle on it is going to get coverage. If you're a fashion journalist what could you write about on Jan 20th but Michelle's wardrobe? I don't see any reason to assume that the coverage of Michelle will continue to focus on her wardrobe in the four years to come - if that were to happen it would be irritating, but I suspect it won't.

It's a bit like the coverage of outfits on Oscar night. If you're a serious actress plenty of people will write thoughtful reviews of your work through the year, but on the day of the Oscars the coverage is going to focus on your dress. I don't know that there's anything particularly disgusting about that.

Chevalier said...

meh, to Falstaff's hypothesis that this is just one detail of many talked incessantly about -

coverage about Michelle's yellow dress or white dress >>>> coverage about Obama's clothes/tie/look.

Veena said...

Szer: Agreed - it would be interesting to see what issues she will take up. Right now, I have only heard military families which is not very different from Laura Bush is it?

And yep, no one can say the Obamas aren't politically smart. I am more interested in where they get to with all this smartness.

Falstaff: You are probably right - everything about this thing was obsessive so it was with the wardrobe. Also, I was looking at the sites a day later where this was splashed all over the front pages - maybe the day before it was different.

Regardless, I am sure I don't have to tell you about how first ladies are viewed and why their fashion sense is so much more important than anything else they do. (Can you imagine fashion journalists going on and on about Bill Clinton's suit and tie if his wife were to become President? Oh wait, then they would be writing about her wardrobe) This is no different from the millions of other occasions but this irked me more because this is one of the times where it is so darned clear that this woman is not an articulate page 3 celebrity that you can just apply the LCD to.

Yeah, do hope that this is an one off thing and we don't get this for the next four years but not as hopeful as you are. Part of it is to do with how the woman wants to be seen as and as long as she holds on to her mom-in-chief type role, it surely isn't going to change much.

Falstaff said...

how first ladies are viewed and why their fashion sense is so much more important than anything else they do

Not true. I'm reasonably sure that if you did a systematic scan of First Lady coverage from the Clinton years you'd find a lot more attention paid to other stuff she did than to her clothes. And I suspect the same may be true for Eleanor Roosevelt, who continues to be remembered, not for her clothes, but for her work with the UN. In short, when First Ladies have done something worthwhile the media has noticed. It's true that a lot of First Ladies have received attention for nothing but their clothes (did someone mention Jackie?) but it's not clear to me that they did anything worthy of attention.

And please, the whole 'no one paid attention to Obama's clothes / would have paid attention to Bill's clothes' argument is too puerile to take seriously. Okay, so media coverage of fashion is generally skewed towards women's clothing. I suspect that has more to do with the richer variety on offer than with any direct sexism. In any case, it has nothing to do with Michelle / First Ladies.

Paul said...

surprised to know there are many more yankee watchers on the circuit than I had ever imagined! forgive my ignorance, but pray, what colour is 'lemongrass yellow'? i'm familiar with 'lemon yellow', 'chrome yellow', 'yellow ochre', and botanically speaking, 'lemon grass'(which doesn't look yellow) and 'lemon grass oil'(which again doesn't look yellow). can some specialist kindly enlighten me?
As for Michelle Obama's clothes I'm glad the yankee press didn't run an x ray scan on her and analyse everything she chose to wear to enter into a detailed discourse on her fantacies and subconscious affirmations.

Veena said...

Falstaff: Yeah, when attention is paid to things other than clothes, kids and table clothes, then you need to start worrying. Ask Hillary. And Eleanor is a strange case - from what I remember most of her work that is remembered is from after 1945 - once the husband was dead and she was safely out of the White House to cause much trouble. (And since there was no TV, they couldn't say 'lemongrass yellow' and expect people to get it :))

The point is I am with you in that if you are Jackie you can't expect coverage of anything but your clothes. In this case it isn't which is why I was irked. Two, I don't think that there is no cost to pay if you diverge from the traditional first lady script. If it wasn't an issue, I am quite sure Michelle wouldn't say the things she has been saying. I do think however that it doesn't take much to turn it around and I hope Michelle does.

On media coverage being skewed towards womens clothing - its about how women are viewed and what their functions are seen to be relative to men and not so much about variety, the rich variety on display is a function of that. But we won't get to agreement on this so no point. Oh, and I wasn't saying there is some special sexism directed towards first ladies, just the manifestations now that they are wives of very powerful men.

Paul: Must say I am the wrong person to ask. I recognise only primary colours and everything else is a shade of one of the primary colors in my mind. This causes a lot of my trouble in my job as a powerpoint monkey so I would actually be glad if someone educated me on such essentials.

On Michelle's clothese, wait. we are just getting started. if they do the x-ray scans now what will they do for the next four years?

Falstaff said...

If it wasn't an issue, I am quite sure Michelle wouldn't say the things she has been saying

The issue is not deviating from the First Lady 'script' (whatever that might be). The issue is what you do / say when you deviate from it. I suspect Michelle's subdued-ness has a lot more to do with the fact that she's not politically street-smart (witness the proud of my country speech) than with the need to conform to any first lady stereotype. And not saying things that your opponents could misconstrue and use against you is a burden anyone in politics carries, irrespective of gender.

Oh, and I agree entirely that the general overemphasis on women's clothing is sexist, but that's a whole other issue. If the fashion industry exists and people are interested in it (visits to the Sartorialist, anyone?) then it makes sense for the media to provide coverage of something their readers / viewers want to know about. That doesn't make them sexist. It would only be sexist if they didn't cover the more meaningful things Michelle may do in the future - but I have no reason to believe they won't.

Veena said...

She is not just subdued - she is saying things that doesn't sound much like her. Anyway, at this point, its early to say what Michelle might / might not do, so I shall just hope and wait.

On fashion coverage: I agree it makes sense to provide coverage (that is sexist though it may not be direct sexism) if that's what your viewers want but it doesn't make you any less sexist. What I find interesting about hugely popular sites such as Sart and the London Street Fashion is that they prove (to an extent) that the market is interested in non-sexist, non-racist fashion coverage. And while the onus is on the market to demand and the industry to make the change, fashion journalists can play an important role in changing perceptions.