dnc

Michelle Obama: The Anti-Fashion Fashion Plate

Despite the unfailing adoration she receives from the fashion industry, Michelle Obama’s style remains surprisingly relatable, likable, and not weird.

Michelle Obama’s style has made her one of the world’s foremost fashion plates — even though she never looks weird or edgy in that way fashion people love. And she very well could wear things that look weird or edgy, given some of the labels she likes, like Rodarte, Alexander McQueen, or Zero Maria Cornejo. But most of the time, she manages to look stylish and ladylike and down-to-earth without being so trendy that she doesn’t make sense or seems intimidating. The First Lady, who is certainly not immune to wardrobe gaffes (when so much attention is placed on one person’s wardrobe, it’s bound to get them into trouble from time to time), wore just this kind of outfit to deliver her speech at the Democratic Convention Tuesday night. It was, predictably, the perfect balance of stylish, ladylike, and down-to-earth.

Eric Thayer / Reuters

The Tracy Reese dress came in a brocade print with a bright pink and blue/gray color scheme that is very “now” in terms of runway trends. But the a-line shape and high neckline kept the dress far from intimidatingly trendy territory. Also, it was almost as bright as Ann Romney’s RNC look but dissimilar enough that you probably wouldn’t think the two women dressed alike for their big moments. This was an important distinction for Obama to make for image and message purposes.

Another glaring difference between Ann’s RNC look and Michelle Obama’s DNC look was the jewelry. Both kept it to a minimum, but Ann accessorized her red Oscar de la Renta dress with a chunky gold bracelet on one wrist and a less chunky but still apparent gold watch on the other, which made her look just a touch spendier. Michelle’s wardrobe is not anywhere near cheap or even affordable, but she works to make it seem that way, by skipping the chunky gold jewelry or wearing, as she did tonight, something by a mall brand like J. Crew (in this case, the store’s $245 Everly seude pumps, which I’m sure will now sell out).

And even though Michelle usually looks like a normal dresser — which she’s definitely not, given her vast array of designer things and the fashion industry’s fanaticism for everything she wears and does — she still comes up with unexpected touches that make her, well, kind of cool. Tuesday night, it was the nail polish.

Chris Keane / Reuters

The gray hue was matchy but not matchy-matchy, trendy but not too weird, and seems sure to spark a craze, possibly sell-out if we ever figure out the brand and shade she chose.

Prior to Michelle’s speech, it seemed a given that the fashion world, which is unabashedly left-wing and has raised a lot of money for the Obama campaign, would love whatever she chose. Their politics aside, Michelle has done a lot for the clothing business, causing items to sell out within hours of wearing them and even, as one Harvard study suggested, significantly boosting clothing brands’ stock values with her patronage. Not many people have that much power or receive as much support from the industry as she has. So it’s even more notable that her style remains very much her own. She’s in a role that demands nice clothes, and lots of them. But her sensibilities remain uncorrupted by the safety demanded of her position and just how weird fashion can get. This is why, as a First Lady mom who gets up every day and has to find something to wear, she’s so likable.

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