It didn’t take long for the fashion world to fall in love with Michelle Obama.
Not to mention the inaugural ball gown, Jason Wu’s Cinderella-like confection made from 20 yards of ivory silk chiffon, two thousand coin-sized organza flowers, and millions of sparkling Swarovski crystals.
Even her daily wear has Americans swooning. As soon as cameras caught her wearing a mint-green pencil skirt and sparkly cream cardigan from J. Crew to meet UK’s Gordon Brown, the pieces flew off the shelves at J. Crew.
Clarkson Potter is hoping the same will happen with “Everyday Icon: Michelle Obama and the Power of Style.”
Like Mrs. Obama, the book is more substantive than you might think. Part coffee table-style book, part historical study, this 256-page homage to FLOTUS (First Lady of the United States) fashion explores the societal and political implications of the first lady’s style, illustrated of course, with sumptuous photographs of the photogenic Obama.
Potter’s timing couldn’t be better. Michelle Obama is caught up in a bit of a dressgate lately, having worn British label Alexander McQueen to the State Dinner with China last week. Oscar de la Renta criticized her non-American choice, as did the Council of Fashion Designers of America. After wearing Rachel Roy (American) to the State of the Union, Obama appeared on “Good Morning America,” and defended her fashion choice. “Look, women, wear what you love,” she said. “That's all I can say. That's my motto. I wear what I like because ... I gotta be in the dress, so....”
But the book is about more than Michelle. Time style and design contributor Kate Betts explores first ladies’ style through history, considering how their wardrobes reflected both the era in which they served and the role of women in that era.
Learning the lessons of her predecessors (both Jackie Kennedy, and amazingly, Mary Todd Lincoln, were criticized for their fashion extravagance), Michelle has gone to pains not to appear too frivolous or a slave to fashion, especially at a time when the economy demands more Gap than Gucci. Obama “maintained a distance from the process,” Ms. Betts writes, treating "fashion" like “the F word.”
And yet, in spite of her (stylish) efforts not to draw too much attention, it is a universal truth that a first lady must dress each morning and each morning the world will scrutinize, admire, criticize, and analyze the threads that cover her back.
Lucky for us, Michelle makes it fun.
Husna Haq is a Monitor correspondent.