It's fair game to criticize President Obama's policies, but lay off Michelle'sjewelry, clothes & appearance
When we published a little story about three diamond cuff bracelets that Michelle Obama wore to a New York fundraiser, we didn't expect much of a reaction. But it was a big coup for young Texas designer Katie Decker to have the first lady wear her jewelry and the 23-year-old Texas A&M grad was justifiably proud and honored, so we felt it merited a mention.
Within a few hours, hundreds of thousands of people clicked on the story, and the majority were mad as hell that the first lady wore the $42,000 bracelets. Many who hide under anonymity left venomous replies with personal attacks on the first couple. (Frankly, many of the responses are frightening and would cause the Secret Service to be alarmed.)
We have removed comments that are racist and threatening but left the ones that label the first lady as insensitive in a time of recession to wear such pricey accessories, even though they were on loan. At CultureMap, we believe in a spirited discussion, so we've been careful to include honest criticisms.
Some critics maintain that if Laura Bush had dressed in an ostentatious manner, the press would be all over the story. I'm not buying it.
If Michelle Obama dressed down, critics would scream that she doesn't respect the office. (In fact, they howled when she was photographed in shorts during a Grand Canyon vacation in 2009.) When she dresses up, they carp that she thinks she's grand. Like every first lady before her, she can't win, no matter what she does.
For one thing, the former first lady was always tastefully dressed in high-priced designer clothing (Oscar de la Renta was a favorite) and no one complained. Michelle Obama has been a big supporter of the American fashion industry and when she wears a dress or piece of jewelry by an American designer she is boosting his or her career into the stratosphere. I've never heard Prabal Gurung, Thakoon, Naeem Khan, Barbara Tfank or other lesser known designers complain when she has worn their designs.
What do her critics want her to wear: Sackcloth and ashes?
If she dressed down, they would scream that she doesn't respect the office. (In fact, critics howled when she was photographed in shorts during a Grand Canyon vacation in 2009.) When she dresses up, they carp that she thinks she's grand. Like every first lady before her, she can't win, no matter what she does.
Complaining about a first lady's wardrobe is not anything new. Nancy Reagan was slammed for wearing designer clothes in the '80s, during a recession. Much of the criticism seemed unwarranted, but as I recall, in an era before the Internet and non-stop cable news, the discussion didn't seem as hateful. Hillary Clinton's hairstyle's were dissected like the stock market and Barbara Bush's pearls were parodied.
Reagan turned around public opinion by making fun of herself at a Gridiron dinner, wearing second-hand clothes and singing new lyrics to "Second Hand Rose." Perhaps, the current first lady should follow her example when the opportunity arises.
The fact of the matter is, most people in the public eye are loaned clothes and accessories for special occasions. Does anyone really believe that Gwyneth Paltrow paid for the black beaded Pucci gown she wore to the Emmys? It's such common knowledge that everything movie stars wear on the red carpet are freebies that they usually spout off the names of the designers of their head-to-toe looks without missing a beat.
In the air-kiss world of fashion, the line between giving someone an outfit (a no-no for a political figure) and lending them something to wear (generally OK) is often murky. In cases like this, shouldn't politicians and their spouses be held to a higher standard than red-carpet figures? I think so, but if you disagree, it's the basis for a robust discussion.
The fact of the matter is, most people in the public eye are loaned clothes and accessories for special occasions. Does anyone really believe that Gwyneth Paltrow paid for the black beaded Pucci gown she wore to the Emmys?
The White House and Decker's rep were upset that we published the prices; it's an unwritten rule in the fashion world that no one talks about price, even though information on most loaned-out objects can be easily obtained online. I don't think it's out of line to mention prices of what our public figures are wearing and CultureMap will continue to do so, when warranted.
But, after nearly 30 years in the news gathering business, I am surprised and saddened by the mean-spirited and downright nasty tone of the criticisms of the first lady's wardrobe and looks. You can disagree with her husband's policies, but there's no place for ugly name-calling. I'd feel the same way if Cindy McCain were first lady or if Anita Perry or Ann Romney assume the role after the next election.
With such withering criticism, it makes you wonder why anyone wants to run for office.