When is a dress not just a dress?
From the moment the US first lady Michelle Obama posed for US Vogue wearing a J Crew two-piece, commentators have applauded her for championing affordable, mid-market fashion. But it’s not just the fashion press watching her every sartorial move with a keen eye.
Between November 2008 and December 2009 the first lady donned outfits from twenty-nine fashion retailers during 189 public appearances, according to Professor Yermack of the New York University’s Stern School of Business. These outfits, Yermack calculates, offered a profit-boost for the 29 companies of a cool US$2.7 billion. In January, however, Michelle Obama she has come under fire for wearing an Alexander McQueen dress to host a White House state dinner in honour of Chinese President Hu Jinto.
While she looked magnificent, many fashion commentators implored the US first lady to acknowledge her sway in the fashion economy. Osacar de la Renta remarked in WWD: “There are a lot of young people, very talented people here who [need her support],” he said. “My understanding is that the visit was to promote American-Chinese trade — American products in China and Chinese products in America. Why do you wear European clothes?”