First Lady Michelle Obama is taking a lot of heat about wearing shorts to visit the Grand Canyon. People might be taking about her shorts, but the shorts aren’t really the problem. The outfit doesn’t work because she doesn’t look like the First Lady in it.
(PHOTO – Dana Felthauser, AP)
Image is tricky, it’s a form self expression and communicates your place in society. For an outfit to really work it has to honor your sense of style, flatter your body, be practical for the occasion, and represent who you are.
There’s no problem with the outfit Michelle chose, per se. It’s flattering and perfect for a mom on vacation. The sticky part is that she isn’t an “ordinary” mom, she is also First Lady and her outfit ignores the formality of her official role.
Just like the President, she is “on duty” 24/7. Right or wrong, the American people expect her to look like the First Lady… always. The President looked like “The President” on vacation at the Grand Canyon. She looked like “Alice America” instead of “The First Lady.”
(PHOTO – Reuters)
Being the First Lady requires a formal element, even if the occasion is casual. A more formal pair of shorts (tailored walking shorts or starched capri pants) and a slightly dressier shoe (sport loafers/Keds) would have made all the difference.
We “regular” women face the same judgement everyday, it’s just not discussed on a national scale. We encounter the same distinction when dressing for the office picnic versus a family vacation. There is a level of formality, professionalism, and modesty that is expected at a business casual event.
Michelle can be comfortable, express her personal style, be a Mom, be a fit and fashionable woman, represent Change and a New White House, and represent her official role as First Lady. All women face the same challenge. It’s possible to create an image that works. And no one said it was easy.