By Sarah Hudson
What do you do with a successful, utterly beautiful, accomplished, and fashionable woman? Do you recognize her high levels of education? Comment on her understated glamour? Do you applaud her professional work? Envy her style? Ask her where she got her dress? It’s really a lot to think about. And these are just a few of the many questions that enter my mind when I think about Michelle Obama.
My feminist self wants to put on blinders and pretend that I don’t notice Michelle’s adorable J.Crew dress on “The View” or her gorgeous Jason Wu gown at the inaugural ball—I simply adore her for her intelligence and envy her years spent at Princeton and Harvard. But then my fashion self—the one shaped by years of watching Breakfast at Tiffany’s, shopping with my mother and aunt, and reading the pages of Vouge and Elle—can’t help but admire her elegant style, regal presence, and impeccable taste. I am drawn to websites like www.mrs-o.org (which is entirely devoted to following Michelle’s style on a daily basis), yet I am frustrated that her community organizing, work in a prestigious law firm, and political involvement are rarely the topic of discussion.
I often feel the same frustration with many female political figures, especially in the past 2008 election. I swear Hillary Clinton’s pantsuit color was discussed more than her stance on issues. Sarah Palin was sexualized at every opportunity, and her hairstyles were more anticipated than her commentary.
So I suppose my question is this: why can’t we talk about fashion AND politics? I don’t just mean for women, although it’s a good place to start. Why don’t we discuss male presidential candidates’ suit choices? Their haircut styles? I’m all for it personally. If John Edwards’ tan is a little off one day, let’s discuss (although I’m sure a bad tan is really the least of his worries). If Barack decides to go shirtless in Hawaii again, let’s talk about it. Let’s look at many, many pictures of it and talk about it! I think there is space in political conversation to discuss fashion, and there’s plenty of room in fashion conversation to discuss politics. The two topics are not mutually exclusive. As long as every pundit, candidate, and representative is fair game, let’s go for it. The superficial and the substantive all enter into what makes a person human. So Michelle, you’re a chic, intellectual woman, and I love you for it.