Design by 3.1 Phillip Lim via The London Times
Ahead of next Tuesday's inauguration, unsurprisingly the Mrs. O fever gripping the U.S. fashion press has spread to Europe and beyond. We particularly wanted to share a significant piece in the London Times yesterday, also viewable on their website here, which was devoted to speculation and comment about the soon-to-be First Lady's outfit for the event.
As Lisa Armstrong, the Times writer, reminds us, the choice of dress is so much more than just a fashion statement, photographed in all the papers one day, only to disappear the next. "For all the fireworks surrounding the clothes that women in the public eye wear today, a surprisingly small number of outfits become totemic. Diana's wildly romantic wedding meringue on an uncharacteristically hot July day in London, 1981; Dior's New Look suit, launched on an incredulous, glamour-starved public in 1947 - [these looks] have become freighted with a social significance that elevates their aesthetics into eloquent parcels of visual history."
She continues, describing how the historical significance cannot be denied: "This is important, not just because in view of the Carla (Bruni) effect, America is crying out for a stylish First Lady after decades of what can most kindly be described as matronly chic in the White House, but because what Mrs. O wears is likely to end up one day in the Smithsonian...First Lady dresses are always important in their way - pored over for signs and hidden statements of intent, they inevitably become symbols of the incoming President's belief system..."
And at the same time, expectations of the populace worldwide, here and now, are huge and contrary: "...ultimately these outfits are sartorial landmines waiting to happen. They must transcend class, colour and financial barriers. Ideally they should impress, endear and unite. Really it's like asking a blanket to bring world peace, and be fascinating at the same time." No pressure then.
The good news is that a well-founded confidence in Mrs. O's ability to choose wisely is felt worldwide too. Her ability to carry off strong colours, or indeed winter white, is repeatedly praised. And as Armstrong concludes: "On her side, however, is her innate sense of style...Bottom line, she's a good-looking woman who knows her way around upmarket labels (in the past year she has worn, among more predictable names, Thakoon and Rodarte, both up and coming darlings of New York Fashion Week). Fashionable, in a user-friendly way, she even made it onto Vanity Fair's 2008 Best Dressed list. She can wear just about any color and she's the first First Lady since Jackie Kennedy who can anoint trends and sell out a dress (for example, the black and white sundress she wore to guest host ABC's The View). As Peter Som, another New York talent, says: "What she wears has a huge impact on fashion. From day one she has shown her own modern style that many women can identify with or aspire to."