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Several of you have commented on a New York Times article by Cathy Horyn, "Wrapped in Their Identities," published December 24, 2009. I've not featured it until now, but it's been on my mind. While I have great respect for Cathy Horyn as a fashion writer, and avidly follow her "On the Runway" blog, I found this article bothersome.

As part of the New York Times "The Year in Style" series, Ms. Horyn reviewed the impact of the first lady's style in 2009. Given how much has already been written about Mrs. O's impact on fashion, finding a fresh angle had to be a tall order. Enter Sarah Palin into the story. Ms. Horyn suggests that working women dress more like Sarah Palin than Mrs. O, which is probably true. But in a year's review of the first lady's style, is this really the grand revelation?

The reference to Sarah Palin feels a bit too obviously used for the sake of provocation. Perhaps more ink should have been devoted to the observation that Mrs. O is not, in fact, a mirror reflection of the way professional American women dress, instead setting her own style course. And on that course, her choices will surely impact our social history, and ultimately, the way we, as women, dress years from now.

(Please be sure to read the comments below. While I've gone headfirst into more granular points, Christina has wonderfully captured the central theme: "I feel as if Horyn's major point seems to be that Sarah Palin was criticized for her clothing when it turns out that Michelle Obama is the "real" poseur, trying to act like an "everywoman" when she is actually an super-insider.")

The other vexing bits of the piece are in the details. Phrases like, "Flotus Tactical Cardigan Collection at J.Crew" and "strategically worn plebe numbers from Target and Talbots" rubbed me the wrong way. I recall a piece Ms. Horyn wrote in April about the value of mixing carefully chosen pieces from Michael Kors and Topshop into one's wardrobe, and another piece that sang the praises of Norma Kamali's collection for Walmart. So why are the first lady's choice suddenly "strategically worn plebe numbers"? What happened to the high-low mix and why can't it apply to Mrs. O?

With zinging jabs woven throughout the article - I felt like I could almost hear loud typing as "Who's Barbie now?" was written to close the piece - I'm less forgiving of loose details. Ms. Horyn wrote:

"Editors and designers love Michelle Obama, of course. All those magazine covers; the Flotus Tactical Cardigan Collection at J. Crew; her glamorous face-off with Carla Sarkozy, the former model, in France, when both women dressed for the evening in French clothes (Mrs. Sarkozy in Dior, Mrs. Obama in Azzedine Alaïa). Jackie Kennedy, the other White House deity, had to give up her beloved Givenchy because her husband, seeking the support of labor unions, needed his wife to be seen in American-made clothes."

Yes, Jacqueline Kennedy was reportedly advised to wear American designers, thus forging her relationship with Oleg Cassini. However, the example Ms. Horyn gives above is jumbled. When Jacqueline Kennedy travelled to France with her husband in 1961, she famously wore a Givenchy gown to attend a dinner at Versailles. The sartorial gesture acknowledged the rich fashion history of her host nation France. And in 2009, Michelle Obama followed Jacqueline Kennedy's example, wearing Alaia for the Nato Summit in France and Moschino to meet the Pope in Italy. Shouldn't that be the observation?

Anyway, I will stop my nitpicking here. What do others think?

Reader Comments (87)

Thanks for speaking up! I read the article too, and was truly confused about the writer's goal. Did Cathy Horyn tip us to her grievance against Mrs. O when she referred to Robin Givhan's conversation with Desiree Rodgers? Maybe she feels snubbed?

Tuesday, December 29, 2009 at 11:57 AM | Unregistered Commenterannbee

I read the article. I think that Barbie has many different style choices. Take a walk down any toy store aisle to see her options! In the late 60's and early 70's my grandmother would crochet outfits for my Barbie..thus opeing my child's mind up to the range of choices that one could make by creating your own outfits or combining the styles of other makers! I think that Sarah Palin and Michelle Obama make good choices for themselves. We can learn from each woman. What is their to complain about? More woman making more choices...in the public eye. There is no one answer for working woman today. The task at hand is to figure out what works for you in the context of the work space of the day as well the demands on your personal life on any given day. Any woman in the public space making as many choices as Sarah and Michelle for any given day of responsibilities deserve our admisration for the attention that they give the matter.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009 at 12:18 PM | Unregistered CommenterTeresa Touey

Hi Mrs. T,

I too read the article and was struck with Horyn's reference to the J. Crew, Tarjay, and Talbots' additions to Mrs. O's wardrobe. My reaction is it was a thinly veiled attempt to draw controversy around these two women, with Horyn herself in the center of it all. I have not checked the comments online to this story, but will do so now. We might get some reactions that give us more insight into this weird slant on Mrs. O's place in the eyes of fashion watchers.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009 at 12:21 PM | Registered CommenterBevi

I had a similar reaction to the article, Mrs. T. I have lots of respect for Cathy Horyn, but came away feeling like I'd read something she'd written on a bad day during which she was venting a curious sort of personal resentment of Mrs. Obama. I also noted the incorrect, conflated and confused details - which underscored my sense that this was a personal rant, written at warp speed and not closely checked.

My initial reaction to Horyn's thesis that American women dress more like Sarah Palin than Mrs. O was, "Well, yes, but why is that interesting?" I am not interested in studying the style of someone who is essentially dressing like I do. I love watching Michelle Obama precisely because she often dresses like I do not - often she dresses like I WANT to dress. In that sense, I am not speaking so much of the actual clothes, but rather the elan with which she wears the distinctly MO combinations we see.

Sarah Palin is pretty and usually well put together in an American professional woman sort of way. But she's not sartorially interesting. Even a $2500 Valentino jacket looks off the rack on her. On the other hand, Mrs. O makes a Target dress look so couture that it takes even this group of fashionistas a while to figure out it's not Thakoon.

I can look in my mirror almost anytime and see a well dressed woman. That is satisfying, but not particularly interesting. Michelle Obama catches my eye time and again because she challenges me to push my own sartorial envelope and the way I move through the world. Sarah Palin does not.

I'm not interested in where I am. I'm interested in the possibilities of where I can go.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009 at 12:23 PM | Registered Commenteroperafanatic

There were so many things wrong with that article. As soon as I realized she would be comparing Sarah Palin's wardrobe to Mrs.O's I knew this would not be good. It's apples and oranges. They both come from different backgrounds and had very different positions during the campaign. To compare a first lady's style to a politicians is just absurd in and of itself whether they are both female or not. In fact being the same gender seems to be the only similarity between these two women. Ms. Horyn and Maureen Dowd are both the pot stirrer's at the NYTimes, but sometimes their efforts fall flat in an effort to be interesting. This would be one of those times.

Now from a political point of view, I wish people would just stop reporting on Sarah Palin, period. I mean, the woman resigned from her job as Governor not even half way into her tenure only to relegate herself to writing a book to make money. And she keeps herself relevant by posting comments on her facebook page. A Facebook page. Is this what real politics has been reduced to? The Daily Beast had an interesting article about just how nonsensical and meaningless she really is here .

Tuesday, December 29, 2009 at 12:38 PM | Registered CommenterAri

I find the column interesting, and I'm not sure what to make of it. Thanks for posting it here.

I feel as if Horyn's major point seems to be that Sarah Palin was criticized for her clothing when it turns out that Michelle Obama is the "real" poseur, trying to act like an "everywoman" when she is actually an super-insider. That position would definitely get people talking. But I'm not sure she's giving an entirely accurate reading of the criticism of Sarah Palin.

First, let me say that taking politics completely out of the discussion, I actually liked, and still like, the way Sarah Palin presented herself on the campaign trail and her book tour. Palin DOES dress more like how I dress. I like her suits and I thought they fit her well, and fit the image that she was trying to present of herself (and that's not a slam -- we all are presenting an image of ourselves when we dress. Sarah Palin is no different.) That "American sportswoman" image is appealing to me, and there's nothing wrong with a nice pantsuit or skirt suit.

The criticism of Sarah Palin's clothing, I think, came about when it was discovered that a certain amount of donor funds were spent to acquire them. Unfortunately, it all fed into a narrative that Palin was a bit of a "created" persona. But in fairness to that narrative, Sarah had something to do with that, too. It didn't come out of nowhere. Yes, some of the criticism was harsh, but some of it was also apt.

As for the insider/"Everywoman" dichotomy...hmm. I will have to think about that some more. I'm not sure if it's actually a backhanded compliment to look at a black woman and say that she is some kind of ultimate insider, or if it's again an example of "othering" that I've seen in other Michelle commentary. (She can't possibly be like "the rest of us" - she's just another "Barbie." Sometimes she's too "ghetto," but now she is too insider-y, with her fashion choices.)

Anyway, sometimes when I read these articles and try to juggle all the different meanings, I think to myself that I'm putting more effort into it than the author did in the first place! I'll be interested to read what others think and I hope that the discussion doesn't too quickly fall into a "Caryn Horyn is the devil"/haters/sycophants fight.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009 at 12:38 PM | Registered CommenterChristina

Poor Mrs O can't win can she. It is true her wardrobe is way beyond my reach and I have issues with the cardigans from J Crewe but not because of their cost, but because they detract from the beautiful designer pieces.(I have gotten dinged before for saying this...) However I like the fact she doesn't dress like boring me and frankly I just recently bought a dress that looks very similar to one Mrs O wore albeit much less in cost. I wouldn't have tried it without being inspired by what she is wearing.
In summary, I know I can walk into Nordstrom and buy a suit. But I do like seeing some of the more clever designer pieces which I would never have thought of before. Thanks Mrs T for asking!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009 at 12:42 PM | Unregistered Commentershelly

Couldnt agree with you more Mrs.T I was about to email the author of this article the following;

Let me start by saying, I found your article to be lazy, dishonest and quite frankly a political hatched job. For a fashion critic you sure dont know what you are talking about. Take off the foggy glasses and see the world around you. This isnt the 80's, dark suit isnt the only expression of professionalism or projecting smart, confident imagine.
I find it insulting to women that you think being strapped in a dark skirt suit is the only way to project smarts (which failed miserably in 08 election).

I dont get your comparison of Michelle Obama & Sarah Palin, other than being females of the same age group. I see nothing to compare them about.

I dont subscribe to Palin's Politcs but she is a very attractive woman, who no matter what she wears would look good in it. it was obvious to me and I'm sure to most people that in order to take her seriously politically she decided (or was decided for her) to dumb down her attractiveness. God forbid a sexy woman should run for office these day, the men wont be able to concentrated on nuclear arms deal.

As for your assessment of Michelle Obama, your intellectual dishonesty is very obvious. Calling Michelle Obama a barbie is a joke, and it exposes you for the fraud you are. For no other woman portrays the image of real woman of today in recent memory than Mrs Obama.

In regards to Mrs Obama wearing expensive clothes, she is THE FIRST LADY OF UNITED STATES. In case you forgot, she also shops at the gap.

Dont hate, celebrate!
Happy New Years

Tuesday, December 29, 2009 at 12:43 PM | Registered CommenterStylishgurl

Ms. Horyn's column did not leave a positive impression overall. To compare the First Lady to a former governor of lesser intelligence is just ridiculous.

I particularly disagreed with her comment that Sarah Palin's wardrobe was more professional, and resonated with working women. If Ms. Horyn were to peruse the pages of Essence, she would see that Mrs. Obama's style is very much aligned with a stylish, professional aesthetic.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009 at 12:46 PM | Unregistered CommenterRhonda

I don't want to sound like I'm comparing my life to Mrs. Obama, however, my life runs a somewhat less than glamourous parallel. I too have to young children (but boys) ages 8 and 12. My life is in public service...I'm the Founder of a not-for-profit corporation and I'm in my mid 40's. I would strongly disagree with Ms. Horyn idea that the American woman dresses more like Sarah Palin. I laugh at that statement. As I venture out for the day, the average women has several duties that she carries out from day-to-day. Very few of us romp around in high powered suits that are stiff and uncomfortable. Most of us choose seperates so that we can stretch our wardrobe into several different ensembles. Some times we have a little extra money and can afford more luxury pieces; and other times, the priorities of family life cause our wardrobe budgets to take a less high-end approach. Watching Mrs. Obama's wardrobe has been a breath of fresh air. It is whimsical, it is her own personality, and it represents life.

However, I do applaud Ms. Horyn's approach to journalism. We all know that good journalism causes a reaction and a discussion, whether it be positive or negative. She got a reaction. BRAVO

Tuesday, December 29, 2009 at 1:10 PM | Unregistered CommenterGlenda Harrison

Well, I personally prefer Sarah Palin's style to that of Michelle any day. Many of her color choices and accessories are way over the top and many of the pieces she wears are not flattering to her body(particularly her mid section). Hopefully, in time she will turn down some her outlandishness and opt for a more conservative, First Lady-appropriate style.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009 at 1:22 PM | Unregistered CommenterRob

Hmmm-Im in the minority. I live in AZ and I see very few women dressing like sarah palin. Her dowdy suits are just not the thing anymore. Mrs. O is far more current. And the writer did seem to have some grudge or toher, didnt she?

Tuesday, December 29, 2009 at 1:37 PM | Unregistered Commenterjenh

Mrs.T I was appalled to even think that one would try to compare Sarah Palin to Michelle Obama. They are both professional in their own right, and should be respected as such, but as for their style and taste in fashion Mrs Obama appeals to the more sophistocated professional who doesn't have to be "stuffed" into a dark skirt suit or pants suit to fit into a "mans world".

The problem many have with Mrs O is that she is beautiful, smart,fashionable and very confident and may I add comfortable "in her own skin".

No one defines her or what or whom she should be like. I think what bothers most people is that Mrs. O could've afforded her wardrobe before she became FIRST LADY. So to MS Horyn....Get over it!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009 at 2:01 PM | Registered CommenterTsetse Johnson

I enjoyed the picture slideshow associate with this link A LOT more than the article itself.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009 at 2:13 PM | Unregistered Commenterjay lassiter

Interesting article.

I agree that most women dress like Sarah but that's because Sarah is the one on the job.

If Sarah didn't dress in business suits or other professional attire that'd be one more thing that could cause negative press and potentially lose a vote.

It makes no sense to compare a candidate and the wife of a candidate because the latter will of course have more leeway to be creative with their fashion and connect to the voter in a way that the candidate can't.

And quite honestly even though she worked for it and paid for them herself I
imagine the expensive clothes of Michelle woulda added to the elitist talk had she been the candidate but folks left her alone because as the spouse she shouldn't be the target.

Ultimately, the article is right in that most working women dress in the professional style like Sarah and can't afford the clothes Michelle wears but that's okay.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009 at 2:24 PM | Unregistered CommenterMica

My reaction at the conclusion of the Cathy Horyn article was "ouch!" Michelle Obama and Sarah Palin are powerful iconic women each in their own right. No need to compare and contrast.

Mrs. Obama is using fashion twists and turns as part of her image making. I always feel as though she over dresses or under dresses for the occasion. The fabric for her inauguration day suit was spectacular but a curious choice for a daytime event. Wearing a cardigan to meet the queen of England? She is not Lady Gaga. Did the casual style - cardigan and skirt - embolden her to extend the overly familiar embrace? And then wearing essentially an opera coat during the daytime to visit Westminster abbey. Curious. Marvelous.

When John Kennedy was running for president his operatives were concerned that Jackie was too high brow and refined for the masses. Turned out her image was aspirational for American women - pre-women's lib. Mrs. Obama is writing the new book of fashion by throwing out the rule book. We are lucky to have her in the role she is carrying off so spectacularly well.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009 at 2:25 PM | Unregistered Commentertether

You hit it, Mrs. T.

My first reaction? It made me hate New York.

Second (and third) was to get into details, but I think you got it just right.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009 at 3:07 PM | Unregistered Commenterdesertwind


If you're such a fan of Sarah Palin, then why are you wasting your time coming on MrsO's blog to dis the First Lady? Why not instead, create your own blog for Sarah Palin, then that way you and all your like-minded friends can spend your day venting your hate on the First Lady. The rest of us who appreciate good commentary wouldn't have to put up with the likes of you!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009 at 3:11 PM | Unregistered Commentermszonian524

This probably won`t get published , but here goes anyway.......
Other than on dressy occasions Mrs.O dresses like an average female lawyer or office executive. Perhaps it is because for State occasions and official duties she gets a government clothing allowance and the rest of the time she has to make do on her own budget ( thus all of the recycling she does in her closet ).

Most First Ladies before her had long standing wealth and could afford top of the line all of the time. The Obama`s are recently sort of well to do. It may take a few years for them to catch up. As they do you`ll see less and less of the repeat outfits and accessories that are being touted as springing from a so called creative genius on Mrs. O`s part..It`s not creative genius..it`s budget constraints.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009 at 3:19 PM | Unregistered CommenterHermster

I have no right critiquing anything regarding fashion, as I sit here in my Marshall's jeans and sweatshirt (and this is my usual outfit) but I have to say that the article's premise, that Mrs. O does not dress like a "working woman" a la Sarah Palin, is true idiocy.

Michelle Obama is not in a professional role right now, and I think her style choices reflect that. She has brought thoughtful consideration to how to dress like a "First Lady" which is more of a social role than a professional one. I've felt for some time that Michelle Obama is succeeding where Hillary Clinton did not, in the role of First Lady. Clinton frequently dressed like a "working woman", and acted like one as well in the White House, and that greatly ruffled the feathers of her detractors who used that against her.

Mrs. O realizes that right now, her "working woman" life is on hold. She is a mother, she is a wife, she is a role model for all women, not just those climbing the corporate ladder and finally, she is a familial ambassador to other countries, as the wife of the President. She is acting every bit the "lady", not the "working woman" right now, and her style is breathtaking and a sight to behold.

I have no doubt that had Mrs. O been elected to a position, such as the role for which Palin was vying, her style, demeanor and choices would have reflected perfectly that "working woman" ethic, more formal, structured suits, etc.

The article sounds as if its concept was manufactured out of thin air. Just an attempt to fill up some column space, which is poor journalism.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009 at 3:30 PM | Unregistered CommenterCat

Thank you for your response to the article...you should send a version as a letter to the editor. Really enjoy this site.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009 at 3:55 PM | Unregistered CommenterF. J. Griffin

First Lady Michelle Obama should continue to be her individual, beautiful, respectable self, as should all the women in the world. We no longer have to be cookie cutter or dress like any particular person to be considered "acceptable" by media hounds and snobs. Saying that women should dress like Sarah Palin for work shows a certain ignorance. I work in law and have seen all variations of professional dress. We no longer have to just "suit up" to be considered professional.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009 at 3:57 PM | Unregistered CommenterLaVonne Harmon

Christina, very incise analysis. I absolutely admire your candid and balanced assessment of the article and of the ensuing commentaries.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009 at 4:00 PM | Unregistered CommenterNora

Your points were spot on Mrs. T! Thanks for posting. A few years ago I read an excellent biography of Jackie Kenney, titled Mrs. Kennedy by Barbara Leaming. She did a great job of interpreting Mrs. Kennedy's fashion choices and I think Mrs. T is far more accurate than Cathy Horyn in interpreting Mrs. O's choices.

As far as Sarah Palin versus Mrs. O, the comparison was unnecessary. A woman dressing as a candidate is far different than a woman dressing as a wife, mother, and friend. Some of Mrs. O's outfits for appearances and speaking engagements would be perfect for working women, but we see her in many different situations, as opposed to Sarah Palin (other than her fishing waders, which seem to be more for show than anything else).

Tuesday, December 29, 2009 at 5:27 PM | Unregistered CommenterSarah S

Thanks for bringing this article to my attention; I had not seen it before.

I agree that the article read like sour grapes against Mrs O by the writer. She paints Sarah Palin as the everywoman ideal with Michelle Obama being the elitist "insider." It seems there is a commentary/agenda deeper than fashion underlying this article. Is MO not supposed to enjoy fashion/ wear more obscure designers? She implies it makes her less and that she is a poseur because she does this. How dare MO break the mold and be bold and independent in her fashion choices, as well as have the means to afford them (a point she stresses which I find insulting). It implies the writer feels she does not know her "place" which I find maddening.

I love how Michelle carries herself and her fashion choices. Would I wear everything she wears? Absolutely not; I have my own sense of style. I find her outfits inspiring with occasional jumping off points. I cannot say the same for Sarah's (albeit very well tailored) suits.

This is not an article of NYT caliber on this topic in my opinion. It strikes me as shallow, immature and frankly smacks of implied discrimination to me, and I am not one to say this lightly.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009 at 5:42 PM | Unregistered CommenterEricka

Whatever Flotus' approach is, she's doing something right. Ask the Retailers and Designers who have profitted from Flotus wearing their garments. She's obviously connecting with working women since women are snatching clothes that she wears off the store racks. At least some of the woment purchasing these garments are working women. There are no reports in the media of women running out to buy the garments that Sarah Palin is wearing and stores running out of the garment in a few hours. The facts don't support Ms. Horyn's statement. Its too bad when people feel like they have to throw a dark cloud on a great parade. All in all, I don't think FLOTUS is fretting over Ms. Horyn's comments. I think she has better "Fish To Fry."

Tuesday, December 29, 2009 at 5:50 PM | Unregistered CommenterCalle

Love the discussion here.

@ Christina, I agree with your macro take on the article. There certainly did seem to be an everywoman vs. insider theme running throughout the piece, with the roles assigned counter to what we might expect.

I have read and reread this article, and taken a step back to think about it objectively. My issue is that it feels like Cathy Horyn has to bend the truth on both ends (what I interpreted as digs at Mrs. O's wardrobe, and forgiving praise for Sarah Palin's) to make her case. And for that reason, it feels made for the purpose of "pot-stirring".

Tuesday, December 29, 2009 at 6:01 PM | Registered CommenterMrs. T

Thank you for "calling out" Cathy's not-so-veiled jabs ("hater-ation" is the preferred term) of Mrs. O. As you astutely pointed out, were it not for the Palin-contrast angle--which isn't much of angle--this "story" would not be a story.

As I see it, Cathy's tired piece was a classless, baseless, and cheap shot at one of the most fashionably savvy (and fashionably confident) first ladies in history.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009 at 6:14 PM | Unregistered CommenterDarrell Diggins


The Obamas are not exactly poor, so Michelle wearing the same outfit multiple times has nothing to do with their finances. Prior to D.C. the Obamas together easily made over $350,000 a year that is nothing that puts them in the poor class. Also, the President made MILLIONS off his books. Michelle seems like a down to earth person who does not worry about her clothes like some women do. Jamie Foxx even said that when he talked to Michelle in January this year, she said she was MORE worried about Malia and Sasha's schooling than what to wear at the pre-whitehouse events. Overall, Michelle is not trying to become memorable for her clothes, I have looked at pictures in Chicago and she dresses the same way she did back then. To add I agree that this article is "trying" to make FLOTUS sound not like the common woman, and make palin seem like one of us. At the end of the day Michelle is just being her, she has always mixed cheaper things with expensive things. For example, Malia can wear a $200 coat, but still have on $15 shoes.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009 at 6:27 PM | Unregistered CommenterTyTyB

Sarah Palin dresses like a tarted-up business woman. What she says and her ideas trump anything about her, including her clothes. There is nothing original about the way S.P. dresses.

Michelle Obama is truly trying to be an American original -- albeit with the aid of Ikram Goldman. Sometimes she succeeds spectacularly -- sometimes not.

Cathy Horyn just needed a nice hook for her story.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009 at 6:50 PM | Unregistered Commenterpoiret

I would say that Caryn Horyn is writing as a fashion critic, while Mrs T writes as a fan of Mrs Obama. There is nothing wrong with Horyn's piece although I can see how it would bother many on this site, where there is little fashion critique and even less criticism.

It's fine, that's the niche of this blog, but that is not Horyn's niche.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009 at 7:28 PM | Unregistered Commenterkaybeel

I can tell you that in my downtown Philadelphia office I see far more women dressing like Mrs. Obama than I do Mrs. Palin. The beltd waistlines and flower pins are everywhere! I'm also seeing many more dresses and prints than I did a year ago. Thank you Mrs. Obama, women (and men) thank you for your contributions to the upgrades in American women's wear. From couture to knockoffs!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009 at 7:30 PM | Unregistered CommenterStrong Foru

I am not sure that I even understand the point of this article. The author starts off talking about how luxury retailers profits are declining and how Sarah Palin should be praised for spending $75,000 at Neiman Marcus, but then she scolds Mrs. O for having all these designer labels. More than likley, these luxury retailers sale these designer labels and profit from Mrs. O wearing them. So, does she want them to make money or not?

Then she makes the petty statement about Mrs. O closet being full. So what? Alot of women's closets are full. Mine is and I don't have anywhere near the amount of money Mrs. O has.

Yes, alot of women dress like Sarah Palin and alot of women dress like Mrs. O. I didn't know wearing a cardigan vs. a blazer made you an insider. I surely thought it would be the other way around. The thing this lady forgot is Mrs. O didn't ask to be made a fashion icon, she just wanted to support her husband and because of that people started to notice her. Sounds like she's hating the player when she should be hating the game.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009 at 7:35 PM | Registered CommenterNyon

I think regardless of individual style differences, we all "strategically" wear clothes.We think ,to some extent,about what clothes we put on.(period) Cathy Horyn's article seems to be a representation of her political views ,which, sadly, divides us.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009 at 8:02 PM | Unregistered CommenterDonna

In light of the flotus' previous comments "...We're just like you..." and "... someone is going to have to give up a piece of their pie so that someone else can have more...." it appears M0 talks the talk but doesn't walk the walk evidenced by her fashion statements.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009 at 8:08 PM | Registered CommenterClaire

I was disappointed by what seemed to be personal jabs at Mrs. Obama's style choices--that they are scheming and manipulative choices--in Mrs. Horyn's article.

The main thing I disagreed with was the apparent meaning behind saying that more women dress like Mrs. Palin than Mrs. Obama. I have felt a sense of freedom since Mrs. Obama's style choices became news. Many of us may have dressed like Sarah Palin before, but secretly desired to try the things we see Michelle Obama daring to do.

There's a certain practicality to Mrs. Obama's style that gives license to all of us to do such things as recycle pieces by accessorizing, or to dress to influence a mood and not just to reflect a mood. Most of all, I really appreciate how it seems to allow us professional women to enjoy pretty clothes and still be taken seriously.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009 at 8:21 PM | Unregistered CommenterSis to All

I've been vacillating back and forth for awhile on whether or not to comment on this particular thread. Some of the indecision is due to my own personal experiences as well as my unabashed bias for our Michelle. I just don't see the need or logic in Cathy Horyn's comparison of Michelle vs Sarah. Both of them can stand well on their own without a need to pit ones' style against the other. With all thing being equal, why not compare (if you need to) Cindy McCain to Michelle Obama, inasmuch as they were the wives of candidates. Sarah Palin was the runing mate of her party's choice.When it comes to Sarah Palin's style of dress, I quite liked some of it. It mattered not to me how she acquired it, as long as it was legal, and it was. But even The Republicans were furious with the ensemble that Cindy McCain wore on the night of the election. They went as far as to say that the dollar amount of the ensemble with jewelry was out of touch with reality. Whether it was or not, voters did not vote based on her Oscar De La Renta and Harry Winstons from that night.

While I have always favored the style of dressing that FLOTUS displays, it is nothing new to a lot of us African American women. The use of several colors within an outfit that is punched up by an unexpected texture, slightly askew accessory or hotter than July pair of pumps....nothing new. The use of high end mixed with low end ....nothing new. The fact that sometimes we can make it work by buying, perhaps, a knock off...nothing new. Shopping within our closet...nothing new. At no time do I feel that these sensibilities are reserved for Black women, oh no ma'am. Quite contrary as a few of my former White colleagues did exactly the same.

But when it comes to FLOTUS there seems to be an under-current of vitriol that is not based in anything that remotely resembles what the writer is claiming. Some people are constantly using that tired, yet favored word "inappropiate". That word is interesting in it's implication that she does not know what she is doing, or does not belong where she is. I'm not radical by no means, but I've seen and heard the subtle and overt ugly face and voice of racism when it rears it's ugly rear. I know this subject makes some people uncomfortable, especially those who aren't guilty of it, but it is a fact. It is also a fact that people can just not like what Michelle wears and have no racial bias at all, heck, they can just not like her and it have nothing to do with race.That's a given. But some of the motivations that comes from articles that are printed by some of these "fashion critics or authorities" have more than subtle undertones of bias that have absolutely NOTHING to do with fashion.

Tip-toeing around the Pink Elephant in the room won't make it go away!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009 at 8:24 PM | Registered CommenterCharlene in Detroit


"less criticism" !!!! Are you serious. You obviously don't read this blog regularly

Tuesday, December 29, 2009 at 8:31 PM | Unregistered Commenterdasie

I can't remember a THING that Sarah Palin has worn! All I remember is that she looks like the stereotype of a schoolmarm or spinster librarian from the 50s and 60s. Since I've been a teacher myself and an avid librarian and am in both Michelle and Sarah's age range (I am 48), I will dress like Mrs. Obama ANY day, thank you! Mrs. O has renewed my "fashion passion" and even though I don't wear prints, I just love her recent choices and am REALLY dressing more ladylike than ever! I like how Mrs. O dresses "officially", but doesn't look outdated and frumpy like Sarah!

Sarah really needs to update herself; she is just too frumpy. Even Hillary did something with her hair so she wouldn't have to wear it in her headband all the time. Sarah needs a makeover. I'm not being rude; just truthful!

Another thing: I'm really paying attention to the cut of clothes now, and I'm enjoying reading about all the new designers she's using and how she likes Target, J.Crew, etc.


Tuesday, December 29, 2009 at 8:34 PM | Unregistered CommenterFH

I think generally - among real fashion people without an agenda - Cathy Horyn is looking like, well, a fool. Rosalyn Hoffman, author of "Bitches on a Budget," wrote an article on Huffington Post entitled: "We're All Barbie Now?"

This is an excerpt:

"We're stumped about why Michelle O's chic and broad-ranging style is a matter of debate. An accomplished woman, how she chooses to spend her money on her clothing is her choice and business. Besides, isn't it refreshing to have a first lady who has a sense of style adventure and spirit, who isn't a slave to a single designer, who isn't too uptight to be seen in Target clothing and jean shorts? Isn't that how real people dress? What smart woman doesn't dress high and low, classic and trendy, biker jacket and floral print?"


If Cathy Horyn believes that Mrs. Palin is a better person than Mrs. Obama, then she should have just stated that and justify her reasons - in any forum. Shame that she chose to hide behind "fashion" like a coward.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009 at 8:36 PM | Unregistered CommenterRoanne

The fashion critic has a reputation, dissing MO just keeps her where she wants to be.
and I'm sure she get paid quite a penny to be the way she is. She doesn't have to be right but she is protected by the constitution and surprise, so am I.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009 at 8:43 PM | Unregistered Commenterjuliede

Mrs. T. I agree with your take on the article along with the comments of many others. I don't see the point of comparing Sarah Palin and Michelle Obama. Sarah Palin is a politician and that requires an entirely different wardrobe than a political spouse. I have no problem with either of their choices because it reflects their personalities and the job that they do. Personally I dress closer to Mrs O than Sarah Palin sometimes dressing in suits, cardigans with dress pants and basically mixing it up with high low items based on my budget. I doubt Mrs. O will lose sleep over it but the overall article. Just seemed so petty and unnecessary.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009 at 8:43 PM | Unregistered Commenterlisa

I thought the article was on TARGET. WHY IS THE LIBERAL PRESS NOT DISCUSSING THE COST OF HER WARDROBE? Most is not available to the general public. Do not parade yourself as an outsider and worried about every day americans and then wear $500.00 tennis shoes to a soup kitchen, I have no problem with First Ladys dressing well, just be honest as to whAt you spend.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009 at 8:58 PM | Unregistered CommenterTexashermes


Probably because she uses HER OWN MONEY to upkeep her wardrobe, so the cost of her clothes is non of the liberal press business - or anybody else's for that matter.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009 at 9:48 PM | Unregistered CommenterCarl


Its HER money so she can spend what she wants on HER clothes. Also, where have you been for the last year? Every outfit that FLOTUS wears is DISCUSSED!!! This has been going on for the past 11 months!!! The East WIng releases who made the outfit and wear the outfit comes from!! Ms. T post all the time wear the outfits are purchased and if the outfit is online some people even purchase the outfit. So trust that Michelle's outfits are not a secret thing. Throughout the article I sense a bitter tone from the author.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009 at 10:02 PM | Registered CommenterM.M.


I don't really get the idea that Mrs. O put herself out there as an "outsider," specifically. I'm sure that she has tried to promote an "everywoman" vibe, on the campaign trail and in her current role, but to me that feels different from being an outsider. Personally, I feel like Palin more explicitly has created an image as an outsider, someone from way (WAY) outside the Beltway who has insight into the common man, etc. And Palin's clothing is by no means cheap.

That said, I can see where you're coming from, I guess. It didn't bother me, but I know that the $500 sneakers to a soup kitchen was over the top, in the eyes of many.I honestly just think she liked those sneakers and wanted to wear them, as opposed to a desire to look ostentatious.

But it doesn't really matter what I think: the truth is, there's a lot that is available to Michelle Obama that is "not available to the general public." There's a lot that Sarah Palin has that is "not available to the general public," and the same with Cindy McCain, and Laura Bush, and all the rest. Maybe the challenge is in separating the image from reality. And keeping externals separated from what is important. Even if you don't like that person, someone wearing $500 sneakers to a soup kitchen is still doing something worthy, aren't they? Is all the good work that Michelle Obama is doing or attempting to do negated because she also wears expensive dresses? I know that we're a fashion website here, but is the cost of a dress really linked that much to someone's heart? Can you be worried about everyday Americans and still like Alexander McQueen? I feel like this is possible.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009 at 10:21 PM | Registered CommenterChristina

Mrs T, thank u so much for this website..i can honestly say i visit this site every day..hoping to see a glance of Mrs Obama and wht she is wearing..causes so dear to her..as for the slanted article trying to compare Mrs O to Mrs Palin there simply is no need..Mrs O is her own woman..she marches to the beat of her own drum. She exudes confidence and it shows because she chooses clothing that fits her personality to a tee. Mrs O is a beautiful woman with a glorious light..Mrs O has many curves and does not shy away from showing them..she is a reflection of me and that is so nice to see for a change(minus the statuesque height of course :) as for her fashion choices..mixing high and low..i know for myself i have always done that..she is not a fashion snob and she enjoys what makes her smile..thats all i have to say really..well just one more thing; this is a website for Mrs O please keep the rude & snarky comments about Mrs O off of this BLOG..this a we love Michelle O site

Tuesday, December 29, 2009 at 10:21 PM | Unregistered Commentercrystal

I was stunned and bothered when I read Mrs. Horyn's article. I thought it was petty and mean and I must admit I thought "she must be a Republican." My other emotion was sadness that she would pick apart something so wonderful...Michele Obama's unique sense of style. Why did she have to compare her to Sarah Palin at all? I agree that Sarah Palin's wardrobe was absolutely perfect for her shape and personality ...so? I think Michele Obama's wardrobe is perfect for her shape and personality too. What of it? Ultimately the author was trying to make some kind of political statement about the Obama;s which to me is totally out of place in a fashion article. These are tough times, Obama inherited a total mess. Come on...is she trying to say Sarah Palin could have handled it better cuz she dressed more appropriately? Shame on her for writing such a piece of hogwash.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009 at 10:30 PM | Unregistered CommenterCathy Curtis

I think it's worth posting an easy link to the Huff Post Article: here

@Texashermes - If a NYT contributor is writing this article, it is appearing in the liberal press. Your complaint sounds somewhat hollow if you don't know that.

As to the NY Mag article, it does appear that this is Horyn's MO. The additional excerpts of her writing that I read do have a very snarky tone to them. She has been banned by 4 fashion houses at this point. So I guess I ask myself why is it that Horyn chooses snark to get her message across?

Tuesday, December 29, 2009 at 11:21 PM | Registered CommenterBevi

I read this article when it came out. My take on it was that Cathy Horyn was explaining why she found Palin more interesting than the First Lady in terms of self presentation.

I think it is the difference between self-expression (Michelle) and a message of power and accessibility (Sarah Palin). Michelle is interested in creating an impression; Palin wants to connect with voters.

On the book tour recently completed Palin wore a variety of outfits, usually built around a sharp blazer with a single piece of jewelry, what I think of as "anchorwoman style", with a detailed neckline that photographs well and one color plus black, usually. It's a working wardrobe but amped up by the Gov's charisma and stunning beauty.

What Horyn was saying is something I have said (maybe not on this blog) namely that Michelle Obama does not seem to have a working wardrobe, kind of odd for someone who has had a career for 20 years, but there it is. She has very casual outfits, and she has formal "event" outfits, but not much in between. By contrast you generally see Palin in her working, meet-the-public attire.

By the way, anyone who thinks Palin is dowdy, or librarian-like, has not seen her wearing thigh-high boots or the leather miniskirt she wore to the governor's association meeting. Her clothes are always event and age appropriate, while at the same time her short skirts and wedge open-toed shoes are totally sexy. It's a fine line but she handles it.

What I'm saying is, and I think what Horyn is saying is, that Sarah Palin controls her image, and Michelle Obama doesn't.

I like the way Michelle O dresses much of the time, but she seems to me to be someone who is still searching for her identity in the clothes she wears. Sarah Palin knows exactly what she wants to convey in her personal presentation. She's a perfectionist and works out all the details. Michelle is more spontaneous and creative.

That's how I see it.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009 at 11:29 PM | Unregistered Commenternonpasserat

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