Thursday, November 6, 2008

Le Rouge et le Noir: Obama makes history, Michelle Obama upsets fashion police


Well that didn’t take long. The PA reverb had barely subsided after America’s next First Family stepped off the podium at Grant Park following Barack Obama’s victory speech, when the critics started. Not the political critics – the fashion police. Yes, an African American had just made history by being elected the 44th President of the United States, but some seemed more focussed on a bigger issue: slagging off the future First Lady’s dress. Which may have been designed by a Kennedy fave (now confirmed).

In attempting to ID the dress a quick check of the websites of some of Michelle Obama’s designer favourites, notably the Chicago-based Maria Pinto, bore no fruit.

The Red Carpet Fashion Awards blog has however just thrown Narciso Rodriguez’s name into the ring and frockwriter thinks they could be onto something.

Teamed with a black cardigan or knit bolero, Obama’s two-tone sleeveless sheath with criss-cross black satin cummerbund under the bust bears a remarkable resemblance to this dress from Rodriguez’s Spring/Summer 2009 collection:

narciso rodriguez SS09/

But while the New York-based Cuban designer has dressed Obama on at least one previous occasion – and of course originally shot to prominence in 1996 after designing the wedding dress for Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy – his design does not appear to have gone down well in the blogosphere.

Here's a comment left by “Skye” on Mrs O, one of several blogs dedicated to tracking the style of Michelle Obama:

“Tonight’s dress was just short of hideous”.

And “Jon” on the same blog:
“Did you see the black and red frock disaster Michelle wore on election night at Grant Park? Barf! Fashion violation #1 and counting! From where, pray tell, did she drag out that fashion dreg? No style queen will she be in the White House if that was ever an indicator. Where are the fashion police when you need them?”

Ditto "Berdine Logar":

“What a disaster that dress was tonight at Grant Park. Someone’s got to help her with her wardrobe!”

And the criticism has not been isolated to niche blogs.

Noted one Gawker editor on the extremely high profile New York media blog:

“It was moving to see Michelle Obama on stage with her husband, and she's not a woman we would ever cross. She's also elegant! But what was the story with that dress? A lucky garment of some sort, perhaps?”

And Gawker commenter “MadamLash”:

“... the dress was a poor choice for TV against a night time background. Reminded me a little of one of those hypercolour T-shirts with odd splotches that show up in unfortunate bodily hot spots.”

Even political blog But As For Me! hopped onto the slagoff bandwagon, dedicating its 'Joke of the Week' to Obama’s dress choice:

“What Does A Hippie and Ex-SDS Wear To A Rally?

Answer: The Dress Michelle Obama Wore On Stage In Grant Park!”

It’s great to see people with their priorities so quickly sorted after yesterday's inspiring scenes.

(UPDATE: 1.39am. In the event that anyone checks the Mrs O blog and spots the exact same images which appear on this frockwriter post, as well as an earlier dateline to this post, please be advised that both at the time of filing, and for some time afterwards, there was no other blog post on the Narciso Rodriguez dress listed on Google Blogs between the Red Carpet Fashion Awards post - which ID'd the dress - and this post. I not only linked to the latter blog, I also spent some time finding an image of the victory podium on (a site which, up until this point, I have always assumed was a division of Getty - hence the original Getty credit). Of the plethora of images from last night, it seems to be a remarkable coincidence that Mrs O chose exactly the same image. Posting times can of course be manipulated. Mine is not.)


Alfred said...

I was so moved by Obama as he delivered his acceptance speech and by the tears of joy on the diverse faces in the crowd. Nothing can detract from this moment, I thought.

Then Michelle appeared on stage in that horrible black and red dress, evoking images of Jackie Kennedy in pink after the unthinkable tragedy in Dallas.

My greatest fear is that some lunatic will attempt to assassinate this charismatic President-elect. Seeing Michelle with red splotches all over her dress... impossible, impossible.

What was she thinking? Where were her advisors? Why not a solid blue dress -- the color of the Democratic party?

Surely Michelle had plenty of time to think about this night which we all have eagerly anticipated.

Am I the only one who was stunned, and not in a good way, as she walked out on the stage at this priceless moment when the world is filled with hope for a new day?

Celia said...

Please!!! Have you looked at the wardrobes of our last few first ladies?

patricia glaha said...

OH! This is going to be fun Michelle O'Bama pisses off the fashion snobs...I LOVE IT!

Kelly said...

I'm surprised at the outcry. I think it could've done without that shrug or whatever is going on up top, but I really didn't think it was that bad!

Anonymous said...

I for one, was thrilled with her dress, and the girls dresses as well. I think the dress was sharp, trendy, and stunning. Who else could have pulled off wearing black and red? She tore down the barriers of what we expected,put on a great party dress, and set a new flashy trend...with big multi-hoop silver earrings! The very first thing I said to myself when she came out on stage was "What a great dress - unlike anything Ive ever seen a First Lady wear, and this is the First time Ive ever seen a First Lady wear big hoops !" You GO Girl!

V. McCullough said...

As the webmaster of the largest antique and vintage jewelry site on the internet, I was thrilled with her dress, and the girls dresses as well. I think the dress was sharp, trendy, and stunning. Who else could have pulled off wearing black and red? She tore down the barriers of what we expected,put on a great party dress, and set a new flashy trend...with big multi-hoop silver earrings! The very first thing I said to myself when she came out on stage was "What a great dress - unlike anything Ive ever seen a First Lady wear, and this is the First time Ive ever seen a First Lady wear big hoops !" You GO Girl!

Imelda Matt said...

Sweet baby jesus! Don't these fucking freaks have anything better to do! I'm not sure what TV other's were watching but her dress 'read' perfectly on mine...I guess the internet cuts-boths-ways!

Kelly said...

Alfred - are you saying that you're appalled because she's wearing red, the color of the republican party? Both candidates have worn both red and blue throughout the campaign. Even Obama is wearing a red tie in that picture. Red is an AMERICAN color, not just a Republican color.

Anonymous said...

" Red is an AMERICAN color, not just a Republican color."

Well, that's about as dumb as it gets. Since when do colours have a nationality.

Kelly said...

@ anonymous - that's like asking "since when do colors have a school?" I don't think anyone would argue with me that blue is a Yale color, would you? That doesn't mean blue is ONLY for Yale. Just like red isn't ONLY for America.

And if you're trying to agree with Alfred, you make even less sense, because if you're trying to defend red as a Republican color and NOT and American color, that's completely illogical.

Kelly said...

I'm really sorry [frockwriter] - it's the first time I've been on your blog and I'm already arguing...which I usually don't even do! I guess dresses really get me going ;-)

Mike said...

For some reasons, Michelle screams out a perfect dress by Oscar de la Renta.

Alfred said...

Red is the color of blood. Guess I'm just a superstitious idiot, but the sight of all that red on her dress brought back the nightmare images of Jackie's dress after JFK's assassination.

I don't claim to be psychic, foreseeing some future catastrophe. I just described the jolt I felt when she stepped on stage and wondered if I was the only one. My comments were not meant as criticism of Michelle Obama.

Jill Biden's outfit was more appropriate for the occasion.

Michelle wasn't going to a party where that kind of cocktail dress would pass unnoticed. She was appearing for the first time by the side of the President-elect at a rally that was being broadcast to billions around the world.

Wendy Donahue at the Chicago Tribune gave a better analysis of why it was the wrong ensemble for the occasion:,0,1949360.story

Kelly said...

oh my gosh Alfred, was I drunk when I was reading your post? (well, obviously not because I was at work, but I apparently missed a whole two paragraphs that you wrote). I thought you were saying you didn't like it because it was red instead of blue, not that it reminded you of blood. Sorry, I completely misunderstood you because reading over your first comment again, I didn't at all recognize your comments about assassination. Aplogies, again :)

Patty Huntington said...

hi kelly - and everyone else -

debate is good. and welcome!
you guys are among a couple of thousand people who have stopped by the blog so far today. this blog has only been active for 4 months, so that's a record to date. and it's only 2pm here in orstralia. good grief.

alfred -

it wasn't an analysis of the dress, it was simply a post about the (then) nascent controversy. at the time of posting, as far as i was aware, it was the the only dress controversy-dedicated post.

Anonymous said...

I have to say, I really liked the dress! The Obamas are a notably young couple to be in the Whitehouse, and the dress and her jewellery represent that youthfulness very well. I'm glad she didn't choose some pastel pink or peach colour as is 'expected'.

Oh, and just because red is the colour of blood doesn't necessarily make it bad in all eyes - red is a considered an auspicious colour in chinese culture for instance, and in indian culture brides wear red.


Anonymous said...

Women dress for special occassions to compete with other women. Michelle Obama has always chosen to wear outfits that were trendy and very beautiful on her unfortunately this dress is not one of them. Someone should have told her that it wasn't flattering on her and the sweater didn't go with the dress at all. Of all the dresses in the world, or red and black outfits that she could have chosen, this one was a huge mistake.

Paul said...

Mrs Obama looked chic, as she so often does in her public appearances, and very happy. After two years of this campaign, she can wear what she damn well likes!

Anonymous said...

Not a fan of the dress. A soon to be First Lady should not draw attention away from her husband by appearing gaudy. When she walked out on stage, it was the appearance of a very large black widow spider emerging from the wings. A ball-gag and some chains would have been appropriate accessories to go with it's Goth, S&M feel. Halloween is over! Comparing the dress on a fashion runway model, the model can pull it off, as a woman has to be anorexic to wear a dress that cuts her in thirds, and emphasizes bust and hips with bright red while the rest of the dress is black. Mrs. O hardly has the figure for the dress, which only compounded it's garishness. Furthermore, the runway dress had some youthfulness to it with the delicate shoulders, while the reworked version from Mrs. Obama, with it's raised neckline and short sleeves, is a cut used for tacky Mother-of-the-Bride dresses. It was an abominable version of the original designer's vision. If a highly public figure is going to try something bold, they should look at themselves on camera ahead of time to get a view of how the world will see them, and then edit accordingly. At least the children looked appropriately dressed, and Obama's suit was very well tailored, giving him the appearance of a man in charge.

skyyblu said...

I love Mrs.Obama's dress.Very chic and trendy. I guess people were expecting the traditional first lady suit and hat. Come on people time for change.

Sandibiris said...

I do have to agree the dress is horrible - but if you review all the past speeches she always wears the colors of dresses that her daughters wear - Which in this case was one in Black and one in red - Probably to be able to match with President Elect which wore a Dark Blue Suit with a red Tie... It was suppose to tie all together -- However, The dress did not fit well and it just wasn't flattering at all. Sorry Mrs. Obama, I must say this dress was not a good choice by any fashion margin.. :(

Seth said...

Who cares?

Anonymous said...

I have to agree with Seth... I'm a lover of fashion but seriously, watching Obama give his victory speech was an amazing moment in history and I think people shouldn't detratct from it and waste their time freaking out about the first lady's dress- I didn't even notice it.

Aldora said...

The dress itself is nice.. But on mrs o's body, its a disaster!! Nt trying to say tt she's ugly or anything.. She should've chosen a nice formal gown for tt remarkable moment :)

Aniwaes wat she wears doesn't really matter as long as mr obama does his job to improve our lives n get us outta tis financial crisis~

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