Monday, December 3, 2012

Women in politics: Michelle Obama, 10 Favourite looks

How to be inspired by it: a great sense of style
What I like about Michelle Obama's style is that she has it in spades. It is not that she never makes mistakes, that is immaterial, we all do, and let's not forget the kind of scrutiny a woman constantly under the public eye undergoes. It is sadly far too common to attack a woman's appearance together with her political ideas. Men are securely hidden behind what are mostly boring suits, and very seldom receive any kind of criticism for what they are wearing.

13/03/2012. Mini-Olympics event (to celebrate the 2012 London Summer Olympics) with local school children at American University's Bender Arena, part of M. Obama's Let's Move! initiative to promote fitness and healthy eating. She is wearing a L'Wren Scott Cardigan and blouse with wide-legged trousers and kitten heel shoes. [Photo Credits: Getty Images].

24/12/2009. US First official State Dinner at the White House, waiting for Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. She is wearing a gold dress by Indian-American designer Naeem Khan. [Photo Credits:  AFP/Getty Images/Nicholas Kamm].

First Lady Michelle Obama
01/11/2011. Michelle Obama reads Where the Wild Things Are, by Maurice Sendak (one of my favourite children's books) to children at the Royal Castle Child Development Center in New Orleans during her visit to the center. She is wearing a blouse by Duro Olowu and navy wide-legged trousers. [Photo credits: The Times-Picayune/Chris Granger].

13/11/2011. The APEC Spousal Luncheon at Kualoa Ranch in Ka'a'awa, Hawaii with the First Lady of Malaysia.
She is wearing Jean Paul Gaultier Femme dress and Miriam Salat Honey Twig earrings. [Photo credits: AP Photo/Susan Walsh].

10/31/2011. White House Halloween festivities. She is wearing an Asos Midi-Dress orange, with gold, orange, and black stripes (which is a copy of a DVF Fall 2011 dress, to judge from the photos of both here), and a Sonia Rykiel black wool coat with spooky spider earrings. [Photo credits: AP Images/Pablo Martínez Monsivais].

10/04/2009. Michelle Obama and her mother, Marian Robinson, pose for the May cover of Essence Magazine. She is wearing a Talbots silk dress, and a Hanii Y green and blue cardigan. [Photo credits: Timothy White / Stockland Martel].
29/11/2011. As part of 2011 Christmas celebrations at the White House, M. Obama is wearing a black pencil skirt dress with a white collar adorned with a rose brooch and polka dot hosiery. [Photo credits: Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson].

25/08/2008 Democratic Covention, just after Sen. Barak Obama had been nominated as Democratic presidential candidate. This is the first image I remember of Michelle Obama: a simple sheath dress in a bright colour with an Erickson Beamon statement brooch taking centre stage. [Photo credits: Chip Somodevilla/Getty].

24/09/2009. For a speech at the White House in support of health care legislation, M. Obama wore a printed black and white skirt from DVF's Fall 2009 collection, a ruffled blouse and a belted cardigan. [Photo credits:Win McNamee/Getty].

26/04/2012. Michelle Obama delivers a speech for children in the East Room of the White House in Washington, in celebration of the "Bring Your Children to Work Day". She is wearing a polka dot skirt with a three-quarter-length cardigan. [Photo credits: AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta].

Not celebrity style
Contrary to what happens with most celebrities' styles, this woman doesn't seem to have been dressed by someone else, and her intention when dressing is not that you copy her (buying the same items she is wearing). She is the epytome of "Own Your Style", that is, that a woman can approach fashion not blindly but with curiosity, and take whatever she likes from it, and make it work for her.
What I see in her is that she knows how to dress for her body type, her colours, and her height, taking full advantage of everything. You recognize she has her own style, you get a sense of a woman working a wardrobe, using the same item in different ways, in a personal way. You are inspired not to copy her but to go back to your wardrobe and have the same kind of fun she does with hers.
Style strategy
Mixing high and low items in her own way.
We are all on a budget when building our wardrobes, and have our own price points to mixing high and low fashion items (it may be H&M and Alexander McQueen, or H&M and Kate Spade only when on sale). This is  an art in itself, that is more difficult the smaller the budget... but more the merit! For Obama it is:
  • High: all designers under the sun, also up-and-coming (Jason Wu was almost unknown when she choose one of his gowns for the first inagural ball/s).
  • Low: Liz Claiborne, JCrew, H&M, The GAP, Donna Rico, Ann Taylor...

Buying multiples.
The same shoe, belt, dress, or cardigan, in different colours. This is a great strategy to follow. I started doing it with shoes out of necessity (I love my feet and I get extremely cranky when they hurt).

Wise use of accessories.
One statement item at the time, no overload. Most accessories fall into the "statement" category: no discreet row of pearls, but big ones, or lots of them. A huge brooch, or a pile of smaller ones.

Judicious (and unexpected) use of her palette and prints.
M. Obama is a Deep Autumn and generally sticks to her palette. She is also not afraid of using large blocks of colour, which always makes for a statement in itself of self-assuredness, be it in purple, red, yellow, blue, or orange. Her neutrals are black, navy, and gray.
I find her use of prints especially appealing: combinations of black, white (off white, pale ivory), and gray (mostly in graphic prints, but also flowers, polka dots, checks...), or of unexpected colours, seemingly hand painted (or that look like it), or abstract, or art-inspired florals in rich jewel tones, or vegetable/mineral colours.

Dressing for her body type.
A Body type A, she usually sticks to her best shapes in dresses, skirts, troursers and coats. She sometimes ventures into more fashion-forward territory (like the rock-chick look she sported to Nickelodeon's Kid Choice), as we all may do from time to time, but generally does not stray far from her best silhouettes.

MORE one Michelle Obama's style?
Michelle Obama's Style: The elements.

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