It's been three long months since I last wrote in SWIILPT. It feels like a long enough gap to deserve an explanation, so here you have it: my personal life has been turned upside-down, at the exact time it seems like the whole world has gone mad. This blog is not a diary, and it's def not about politics, but there's no denying how much recent events have affected my ability to care & write about pretty things. After all, who cares? So what? For a minute there, it was hard to see any beauty at all.
That being said, in this new year, I'm determined to find the energy to care again. Style, art, and beauty are my most joyous distraction and I can't let the swirling insanity around me take that away. So here we go!
In today's post I want to take a sec & bow down to Michelle Obama, style icon. She has been a beacon in countless ways - and my focus on her highly advanced sense of style is not meant to diminish or ignore any of her other achievements (Let's Move!, Let Girls Learn, Reach Higher....I could go on). She is an icon of intellect, poise, & realness. During her time in the White House she completely altered my idea of what a First Lady could be, not only through her sartorial choices but through her truly authentic grace, and her unwillingness to be boxed into the First Lady trope: quiet, servile, polite, dainty. (Hell YES you can wear Converse and work in the garden! Hell YES you can wear a golden sparkly deep-V gown with an encrusted shawl! Hell YES you can wear white silk wide-leg pants and sneakers and dance with Ellen DeGeneres on live TV!!) I loved how she deliberately chose to wear emerging, sometimes unknown designers. I will be so deeply sad when she steps out of the role of First Lady in a couple of weeks.
Here are a few of the categories in which our First Lady schooled us all in how to be impeccable.
1. Gowns (I mean, COME ON....)
I will never, ever forget watching Barack and Michelle arrive at the Neighborhood Ball on the night of the Inauguration in January 2009, and seeing them dance to "At Last" as performed by Beyonce, Michelle in that effervescent white Jason Wu gown. At the time, Jason Wu was known mostly among fashion people, but after that he was a household name. Moreover, he was a 26-year old immigrant from Taipei. Michelle proved from the moment she became First Lady that she would be making bold, original stylistic choices, and she never let us down. Her gowns were ***Flawless, every single time.
2. Power Pants
Dresses & skirts may be Michelle's most recognizable style statements, but she also managed to make professional pants look cool, too. That is no small feat - as an industry insider I can tell you that most women's suit/trouser pants invariably suck, and have little to no shape or panache to them at all. She brought the wide-leg back in a big way, and always switched up her topper game with ornate cardigans, statement belts, oversized jackets, even a dress-over-pants combo from time to time. She directly inspired my first-ever culotte purchase.
3. Patterned Dresses
The patterned dress may be Michelle's greatest swan song. She wore everything from Chanel to Tracy Reese to J Crew to Kenzo to Target. I love that she was never demure in her choices, I love how she embraced color and different shapes. I could go on forever but I'll just let these images speak for themselves. (Alright fine, a few are skirts & tops. But look how preeettttyyyyyyy!!!!)
I was one of the 250,000 people screaming and crying tears of joy at Grant Park in Chicago when Barack, Michelle, and their daughters walked on stage after winning the 2008 election. My friends and I all skipped school on Inauguration Day to celebrate. Though his presidency has been far from perfect, there is so, so much I already miss about Barack and Michelle in office. Their grace, their poise, their obvious mutual respect, their goofiness, their ever-present-wits. The murky, frightening reality of a Trump presidency being only a couple weeks away makes that missing ever more potent. Needless to say, Michelle Obama will always be my First Lady. (For further reading: My President Was Black by Ta-Nehisi Coates, To The First Lady, With Love by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Gloria Steinem, Jon Meacham and Rashinda Jones.)