“Michelle Obama: First Lady of Fashion and Style”

The Bookworm

Terri Schlichenmeyer

Fashionistas Take Noteffw-1008-bookcover

“Michelle Obama: First Lady of Fashion and Style”

by Susan Swimmer

c.2009, Black Dog & Leventhal            $9.99

You don’t have a thing to wear. While the average person might peer into your closet and see a wealth of wardrobe, you know the truth. Yes, technically speaking, there are clothes jammed in your closet and dressers. Yes, you’re not running around nekkid. But every dress, each pair of pants, every bra, blouse and boot and belt is sooo outdated.

And because of that, you have nothing to wear.

Now imagine dressing for the spotlight with a few million of your friends watching. In the new book, “Michelle Obama: First Lady of Fashion and Style” by Susan Swimmer, you’ll see how our President’s wife pulls it off.

For as long as there’ve been First Ladies, someone has been paying attention to what they’ve got on their backs. Even Martha Washington was criticized for wearing British gowns at a time when most Americans were trying hard to separate themselves from the Brits.

Over the years, First Ladies who favored certain colors have had those colors named after them (Reagan Red, Mamie Pink). Some have had a signature “look” that goes down in history (who can see a pillbox hat and not think of Jacqueline Kennedy?), while others have, through the power of office, influenced consumer confidence with their clothing (Lou Hoover’s fashions practically saved the cotton industry).

And a few First Ladies apparently cared little about making a statement at all.

Michelle Obama, says Swimmer, favors high Empire waist dresses, as evidenced by so many of the frocks we saw during the campaigns. She loves bold, unconventional colors and uses jewelry to make an impact. While most women shun bright patterns, Obama embraces them.

While Obama isn’t afraid to shop at chain-stores just like the rest of us, she seems to like furthering the fame of lesser-known and unknown designers, even though she “appreciates the… artistry” of some well-established ones. She also likes to keep a few secrets up her famously-sleeveless sleeves.

Jason Wu, who designed her Inaugural ball gown, didn’t know that his creation was going to be worn to the gala until he saw it on TV.

The Michelle Obama Look, says Swimmer, “is sleek and streamlined, classic and creative, decidedly American….She plays with her look… she knows that versatility is a fashion-lover’s best friend.”

Although the book gets a little dramatically breathless in its gushing, and although there are a few annoying mistakes in photo captions, Fashionistas will easily forgive those transgressions.

Swimmer uses a wealth of pictures, snapshots and portraits to give readers a sense of the current First Lady and others, as well as the fashions of their respective times. That makes this book historically important, as well as just plain fun to read.

If you’ve watched the First Lady with fascination and a bit of envy, and loved her sense of style, don’t miss this book. For you it’s a perfect fit.

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