Thursday, January 22, 2009

More First Lady Fashion

While reading the spectrum of reactions to Michelle Obama's fashion choices last night I came across Mrs. O, a terrific web site that regularly follows the fashion of the new First Lady. The site not only shows great pics and discusses Michelle's outfits, but offers a round-up of commentary on the Web, video, and tracks down each garment and accessory, Nancy Drew–like. For instance the Carole Tanenbaum vintage brooch (above) is not, in fact, part of the Isabel Toledo dress MO wore yesterday but savvy accessorizing. Props to Mrs. O. It's a beautiful site; I'm going to bookmark it and make it one of my regular morning reads.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

First Lady of Fashion

Photo from the Washington Post
Readers of this blog know I'm a big fan of Robin Givhan of The Washington Post; she's probably my favorite fashion writer and my main go-to gal when I need a good read, fashion news–wise. So when I looked at the Post today and saw she had a front-page story about Michelle Obama's dresses—and better yet—hosted a live Q&A on the web site at 1 p.m. EST, it was like fashion porn for me. In fact anyone interested in reading smart, sane discourse about Michelle's wardrobe should read this article, and while you're at it, do a Robin Givhan search and read some of her other pieces, too. She earned a Pulitzer a couple years ago, the only fashion writer to ever do so, I believe, and it's easy to see why after reading a few of her neatly written, thoughtful pieces.

I've written before about red carpets and so-called fashion police, the latter which throw me into hostility seizures whenever I'm unlucky enough to land on them on TV or in a magazine. Most of the writing you'll find on the Internet, primarily in blogs and message boards, falls into the fashion police category: Either catty, snarky insults or gushing raves, neither of which rarely explain either the vitriol or appreciation behind the critique.

Photo from The New York Times

This is why I'm so drawn to Robin Givhan's writing. Givhan (who I learned from Brian William's NBC broadcast last night is pronounced giv-AHN, not GIVE-en, like I've been saying it) doesn't slide into the catty-trap. Her writing doesn't shoot from the hip or the heart, it references history, a larger picture that puts fashion-as-both-art-and-social-statement (among other things) into perspective. Like she wrote in today's Q&A, "I hate turquoise, but that doesn't mean that people who wear it have atrocious taste." But she also recognizes that "clothing is quite personal, everyone rightly believes their opinion is valid. Sometimes they forget that just because it's valid that doesn't mean that it's the only one with value."

Food for thought for all of us. So can we ban words like "ghastly" "atrocious" "hideous" "frightful," etc, and all their painful variations from our vocabulary while we (try to) critique?
Photo from the Washington Post

I'm not interested in insulting men and women anywhere just because they've stepped outside the box. I'm not interested in adding to the flood of criticisms that inhibit today's celebrities from taking a chance, from dressing interesting instead of just neatly. I'm tired of red carpet shows and their ilk mainly because the commentary depresses me, but also because there's so little fashion and style on display, instead we only see a catwalk of labels and trends.

Incidentally, I think Michelle's white chiffon Jason Wu inaugural gown dress was lovely. It was not a coconut cake or inappropriate for her age or weight or height. She was not an underage bride. It fit, it flattered, it was chic. It was another capture of Mo Obama, the first first lady to arrive in decades whose got the guts and moxie to be herself and not give a damn whose watching.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Michelle's Dress: Moxie

Photo from AFP
There's so much goodness to write about today but, hey, let's dish about The Dress. Michelle wore a beaded lemongrass wool-lace dress and matching coat by—drum roll—Isabel Toledo, a designer she has worn before (to a Calvin Klein fund-raiser last year, for one) and a long-time favorite designer of mine to watch.

I first discovered Isabel and Rubén (her artist-illustrator husband) Toledo in an old issue of Taxi magazine dating back to 1986 or 87. The article was essentially about cute couples in New York: artists, models and entrepreneurs who transcended everyday levels of cuteness to land in some paradisiacal saccharine-state of beautiful coupledom. As a teenager, I was smitten. Since then, I've been happy to see both their careers gradually rise from struggling to success stories. (I came this close to buying an outrageously avant-garde Isabel Toledo dress for my book-launch-party-that-never-really-happened.)

But I digress. We'll learn more about Michelle's dress—most of it was covered up by the coat, save a long silk ribbon that whipped in the wind—as the Toledo PR machine whirrs into action, but I think the First Lady made yet another inventive fashion statement. Michelle's got moxie, there's not doubt about that, and her confidence, wit and creativity is evident in the clothes she wears. The sunny choice of color is warm and hopeful, and wearing a Cuban-American designer gives a nod to our country's patchwork heritage that was underscored on this cold-weather, celebratory day. (And those green-gold gloves: fantastic! Who are they?)

Elements of the dress—the color, the beaded collar—remind me of Detroit-born Tracey Reese, a designer I placed on my short list of who she might wear. What do you guys think?

Photo from The New York Times

To read more about first ladies and what they wore, pick up a copy of The Long (and Short) of It: The Madcap History of the Skirt.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Essentially Paris

New Year, new article, new post! My story about visiting Paris was published last week in Virtuoso Life and I have photographer Peter Frank Edwards to thank for the beautiful images that accompanied the story. You can read it here, and I'd love to hear your thoughts and feedback!