Balenciaga. And they were trending on Twitter yesterday and almost sold out now. What other outfit could be the Outfit of the Week?
Duana and I dedicated over an hour to Michelle Obama’s Becoming on this week’s episode of Show Your Work. Mrs Obama’s wardrobe was and is a part of her work, when she was First Lady and now that she’s left the White House and has become a bestselling author on a book tour. As she wrote in Becoming:
“Optics governed more or less everything in the political world, and I factored this into every outfit.”
Did you read The New York Times profile on Meredith Koop last month? Meredith has been styling Mrs Obama since the second year of the Obama administration. She was with Mrs Obama on Wednesday night for the event at Barclay’s moderated by Sarah Jessica Parker. Mrs Obama actually namechecks her during their discussion about fashion.
The former First Lady talked about clothes? Michelle Obama didn’t “pop off” and get offended when asked about clothes.
No. She didn’t.
Now who do you suppose I want to send this to?
Anyway, this was Meredith’s approach when she was dressing the First Lady:
“You have to anticipate every avenue of attack and every possible outcome,” Ms. Koop said, remembering. Everyone has an opinion: This dress is too informal; that is too frilly; this is expensive; that is too conceptual.
“You have to celebrate fashion but also be aware of the message people are going to take away,” she said. “Fashion can bolster communications in the best-case scenario, or be a silent partner, or actually distract.” Every outfit involved gaming out every possible reaction, good or bad, that she could imagine.
She would go along to meetings with policy experts and the foreign relations team. She would research the countries where the first lady was traveling, target a look and finally show the first lady.
“I would try to make a case for things: This is why it makes sense, why this designer, this cut,” Ms. Koop said. “Then we’d ask, ‘Do you like it?’ And then we’d think about logistics: What surface are you walking on? How many events? Will you be sitting? Will you be standing?”
And there was another purpose in the clothing – to uplift and highlight. As Mrs Obama told SJP:
“I did know that my clothes were making a statement, I knew that was the case,” she said. “So we decided why don’t we use this platform to uplift some young new designers who normally wouldn’t get this kind of attention, because you can change their lives, which is one of the reasons why we chose Jason Wu for my inaugural gown.”
And now? Now that Mrs Obama is on tour? Here’s the strategy behind the tour wardrobe, per Meredith:
“I really want what she wears to reflect her in a genuine way and resonate with what is in the book,” she said of Mrs. Obama. “For a certain percentage of the country, these are depressing times, and there’s a fine line between acknowledging that and celebrating her for who she is as a woman. Plus, a lot of her message is about connecting to younger individuals. So what does all of that look like?”
She is thinking a mix of designers, including names Mrs. Obama has not worn before (just to make that umbrella even more inclusive), but she’s not thinking dresses because they have too many associations with Mrs. Obama’s time as first lady. And because they make her think of the word “relic” more than the words “powerful” and “chic,” which are those she thinks Mrs. Obama should be going with.
She’s thinking more pants.
Wednesday night was definitely not pants. The whole point on Wednesday night’s outfit was the boots, boots that Mrs Obama would never have worn as First Lady. But as she said, “Fashion does have meaning”. And the meaning now?
“Now I’m free to do whatever.”
Right. Because clothes can be an expression, an extension of what you are trying to communicate. It’s OK to care about clothes, to ask about clothes, to talk about clothes. Also? Clothes are fun. Michelle Obama is clearly having fun with her clothes. The only popping off that’s happening here is everyone else, losing their minds over how she looks in her clothes.
Video of Michelle Obama talking to SJP about fashion is below: