Like her or not, you have to give Michelle Obama credit for not only sparking debate about fashion but also challenging our perceptions of a First Lady. As expected her azure Peter Soronen gown at the 2010 White House State Dinner was scrutinized to the hundredth degree. Most commenters loved it, though some thought the look was a little too glam for a First Lady, as noted by New York Times fashion critic Cathy Horyn, who wrote: “Mrs. Obama’s clothes have made a statement before, but this time people seemed startled by her full-on glamour.” Another writer accused Mrs. Obama of looking “tacky” and says she would have preferred a more “sophisticated, yet sexy look” for her.  “Sophisticated”? Something smells about the implications of that word when applied to the first African-American First Lady, but let’s not go there.

Sure, scrutinizing Mrs. Obama’s outfits is expected and, to a certain extent, warranted. After all, it comes with the job. But underlying much of the criticism is an assumed ideal of what a First Lady “should” dress like (Oscar de La Renta) and generally be like (enough with the Jackie-O references already).  Meanwhile, former First Lady Laura Bush recently expressed her frustration with the “liberal media” for giving Michelle Obama “the benefit of doubt” while typecasting other first ladies. “Maybe (because) this is just her age, that she’s younger,” she said. Well, it might have something to do with the fact that Michelle Obama lives in Washington, but she isn’t of Washington high society, as demonstrated by her decision to continually wear young, up-and-coming designers.  

What do you think? Was the First Lady too glamorous?

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