Mrs. Michelle Obama: Right to Bare Arms

Mrs. Michelle Obama's tendency to wear sleeveless tops and dresses like this Michael Kors number in her official White House photo has been deemed inappropriate by some. investigates.
ESSENCE.COM Mar, 02, 2009

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Mrs. Michelle Obama has only held her official role as First Lady for just over a month yet her wardrobe choices have already caused quite a stir on Capitol Hill. Mrs. Obama’s tendency to wear sleeveless tops and dresses like this Michael Kors number in her official White House photo has been deemed inappropriate by some. explores the controversy.

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The First Lady might look youthful and jubilant in this Kai Milla (Stevie Wonder’s wife) emerald green dress during the Stevie Wonder tribute at the White House in February, but some insiders have complained that her fashion choices are too casual and inappropriate for a First Lady.

ESSENCE Beauty and Cover Director Mikki Taylor defends the First Lady’s wardrobe choices. “It’s a new day and old things have passed away. If you’ve got it, you should bring it,” says Taylor.

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Baring her toned arms is nothing new for the First Lady. Here she wears a floral halter dress by Maria Pinto while accompanying her husband to the 36th Annual NAACP Image Awards.

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The First Lady graces the March 2009 cover of American Vogue wearing a Jason Wu fuschia frock that beautifully shows off her athletic arms.

Dodging harsh critiques is nothing new for Mrs. Obama. In fact, she now seems unfazed by most of the criticism.
She reminded ESSENCE of this in September 2008, “If I wilted everytime somebody in my life mischaracterized me, I would have never finished Princeton, would have never gone to Harvard, and wouldn’t be sitting here with [Barack].”

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Here, the First Lady is glamorous yet graceful in a vintage-inspired empire waist dress.

“Michelle Obama represents a strong body and a focused mind. She makes us proud!” says Taylor.

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The First Lady wears a plum Narciso Rodriguez dress for the President’s Congressional address in February. One Chicago Tribune reader was not impressed. “Does the lady not understand that these big speech events are serious and important? Not a cocktail party?” asked the disgusted reader.

ESSENCE’s Mikki Taylor keeps matters in perspective. “[Society] likes to see women in conservative suits. That was never our sensibility,” says Taylor.

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The First Lady dazzles in a crystal-embellished strapless gown from Peter Soronen at the Governor’s Ball in February. However, opinion is still divided over whether it is appropriate to show so much skin at such a ceremonial event, especially in the dead of winter.

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Mrs. Obama’s appearance as a cohost on “The View” last summer wearing this $148 White House/Black Market dress became a retail phenomenon. The dress sold out instantly after the show aired.

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Mrs. Obama wearing a lace pink Tracy Reese frock on the cover of People magazine. The First Lady and Mr. Obama are up at 5:30a.m. and exercise in their private gym together nearly every day, according to People.

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Mrs. Obama was the belle of the ball in this one-shouldered ivory Jason Wu gown on Inauguration Night. She surprised many by opting for the creation of a relatively newbie designer. Mrs. Obama often evokes the memory of another stylish First Lady who set trends, Jacqueline Kennedy. Regardless of whether she chooses to start covering up or not, Mrs. Obama will undoubtedly continue to turn heads.

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Wearing this cinched violet Maria Pinto shift, Mrs. Obama, pictured here with her husband, caused the “fist bump heard around the world”.

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An Ivy League-educated attorney, Mrs. Obama looks focused wearing a double-stranded beaded choker, white V-neck top and khaki slacks while helping her hubby on the campaign trail.

“[Mrs. Obama] is not Betty Ford or even Jacqueline Kennedy. She is Michelle Obama and she sets Michelle Obama standards,” says Taylor.

What do you think about the First Lady’s right to bare her arms?


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