Everyday Icon: Michelle Obama and the Power of Style
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In many ways the world has never seen a First Lady like Michelle Obama. From the precedent of her race to the singularity of her style, she has been the object of immense fascination. What she says, what she does, and not least, what she wears, is scrutinized around the world.
Writing at the crossroads of politics and fashion, Kate Betts explains why Michelle Obama’s style matters, and how she has helped liberate a generation of women from the false idea that style and substance are mutually exclusive. Following the transformation of Mrs. Obama from her early days on the campaign trail to her first state dinner at the White House, Betts, a longtime fashion journalist and former editor in chief of Harper’s Bazaar, reminds us that while style can be expressed in what you wear, it is inextricably bound up in who you are and what you believe in. In a smart, breezy voice backed by extensive interviews and historical research, Betts shows how Michelle Obama’s bold confidence and self-possession have made her into an icon and transformed the way women see themselves, their roles, and their own style.
With two hundred color photographs, original designer sketches, and historical images, Everyday Icon is not only a lavish tour of our First Lady’s style statements, but also a fascinating behind-the-scenes account of how she created her image and, more important, what that image says about American style today. Much has been written about Michelle Obama, but Kate Betts places her in a broader cultural and historical context; Everyday Icon is the definitive book on how a working mother of two became an unforgettable, global style icon.
Ariel Capital Management president Mellody Hobson. They relied on Goldman to furnish them with fashion-forward clothes that would enhance their personal style. Goldman’s expertise lay in matching the clothes to the personality—she would never sell a customer something that didn’t completely capture her essence. She would never force a boldly printed Moschino dress on a client who only wore black Jil Sander suits. And yet Goldman was incredibly persuasive, nudging her customers to try clothes from
known American designers. For an event at the White House she even chose a bright red dress by MDLR, a line designed by Oscar de la Renta’s son, Moises. Seventh Avenue’s establishment types voiced their concern early on in the administration, telling the trade newspaper Women’s Wear Daily that she should be choosing clothes by marquee names like Ralph Lauren and Calvin Klein. But the First Lady has her own agenda. Fashion’s proverbial second row should move up now. #9 Keep it real. Not for
suit. Renaissance wanted to appear as Casual Michelle, as one of her Washington friends had described her, with her homey knack for putting things together—colors, patterns, and accessories. The soft cardigans made her approachable, and yet they were always chosen in bright colors that made her stand out, that said, “I am no shrinking violet, I’m not hiding from the task at hand.” And her accessories—the unusually wide belts, the chunky necklaces—always accented her individuality and her
presenting her outward appearance as a natural extension of her intellectual confidence. As Karen Jackson Ruffin, her friend from Princeton, had told me, Michelle was always above the fray, not ruffled by the seemingly irrelevant insecurities or anxieties of the moment. “She always seemed to know exactly what she was doing, and why she was doing it. She was very focused,” Jackson Ruffin had told me. Thinking about this reminded me of something Maria Pinto had said while we were talking in her
were as much about the audience as they were about the models on the runway. Everyone who attended dressed up for the occasion. As her daughter, Linda Johnson Rice, said, “It really was about feeling beautiful about yourself and standing tall.” When designers refused to lend her their clothes, Eunice would take out her checkbook and buy whatever creations interested her. Eventually she gained entrée to some of the most prestigious high-fashion houses. She had chutzpah and style. She got to know