Mrs-O.com is a blog dedicated to chronicling the fashion and style of First Lady Michelle Obama. Founded September 2008. 


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Girl Power

While not directly Mrs. O related, I thought some of you might enjoy Robin Givhan's recent commentary on Katie Couric's interview and photo spread for the March 2010 issue of Harper's Bazaar (on newsstands next week). A short excerpt from Givhan's piece for the Washington Post follows:

"...The most striking aspects of the glossy feature are the images by photographer Francois Dischinger. They are an audacious celebration of a powerful woman as a boldly sexy one, too.

There's nothing reserved or hesitant in the sex appeal on display in the four-page story about Couric. The images are a full-throated, even exaggerated, rebuke of the notion that a woman must dress in a prescribed manner -- Suze Orman suits, full-coverage blouses, sensible heels -- to protect her IQ, her résumé and her place in a male-dominated work culture.

Is Couric dressed in a manner appropriate for a network anchor? These images demand that viewers define -- or redefine -- their terms.

Robin Givhan is a master of unlocking fashion's underlying messages, cultural context and nuances, which she's brilliantly accomplished here. As an admirer of the first lady's style -- which so harmoniously unites strength and femininity -- I took particular interest in this piece on Katie Couric, in great part, I suppose, because I see a degree of similarity between Ms. Couric and Mrs. O. Both women are challenging notions for how they are "supposed to dress" in their respective roles, and doing so in a way that feels very 2010.

You can find the full article here. Would love to hear your thoughts!

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Reader Comments (20)

Any thoughts on why Givhan seems to hate on the First Lady so much? I have a feeling if the photos were of Mrs. O., her tone would be vastly less flattering.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010 at 4:21 PM | Unregistered CommenterGroovymarlin

I have always lived in balance and harmoney and fit perfectly at the same time as I have stood up and out authentically!I like both women style and think that the new times we are in has some corruption although with my 15 year of hard work women have gained Women Power but there are instances where I know the like of my promoter used to insist on Cleevage showing on women on Television and I have faught that must for them for I think it is sexist and degrading!Women should wear what they want and not what the men tell them it is appropriate to wear!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010 at 4:31 PM | Unregistered CommenterRoseProphecy

I've never been a Katie Couric fan. Too many mixed signals. Serious journalist? Giggly, blonde, buff girl next door in short skirts and Louboutins, joking around with Matt Lauer? I was never convinced of either Katie because she never seemed very real in either role.

Michelle Obama has a consistent, smart, feminine - even sexy - persona that reads real every single day. Katie Couric does not.

While I am firmly in the "Michelle Obama has a stylist" camp, I am also convinced that the final decisions are hers. In contrast, I have always had the sense Katie Couric would wear whatever was put in front of her. And this photo spread convinces me I was right. She looks ridiculous.


Wednesday, February 10, 2010 at 4:47 PM | Registered Commenteroperafanatic

Just got the magazine from my mailbox. I just looked at the pictures and said, "what the.............."? What happened to the woman from The Today Show? Apparently Katie Couric had no say as to what she would be wearing in this photo shoot. I am sure Tim Gunn would say, "Dress your age and not your shoe size!" Katie Couric looks ridiculous not sexy. The shoes are for a twenty or thirty year old woman. Who does Katie Couric think she is----Betsy Johnson? Ok, I am sure it was a fantasy fashion lay-out but let's be real.....the look makes her appear "cheap" and not sexy. Please let me be clear, I am a Katie Couric fan but....who is this person? And furthermore, why is Katie Couric the topic of the moment? ISN'T THIS SITE FOR MRS. O??????? Now that I think about it......"Why are we talking about Katie Couric?????? I am disappointed with your choice to add this to MRS. O's site. And why did you do it???

Wednesday, February 10, 2010 at 7:02 PM | Unregistered CommenterPhyllis

I have always admired Katie Couric, and I watch what she is wearing. I liked the white blazer that she wore on her first night as the CBS anchor and went out and bought one for myself!
But I was a bit disturbed by the thigh-showing outfit. Sexy does not mean looking like an alien in heat. And why does this somehow translate into "power"? Give me authenticity any day, over power or sex appeal. Mrs. O is authentic, and that's why it all works for her. Katie looks like she was trying to fit into somebody else's image of who she should be.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010 at 7:20 PM | Unregistered Commenterbeth

I didn't expect this to cause such a stir...

@Groovymarlin, IMHO, the notion that Robin Givhan "hates on Mrs. O" has been overblown in the blogosphere. She's been critical at times, but I've always interpreted it as thoughtful critique, not blind "hating." And even when I don't agree (ie the shorts debacle), I've respected her point of view for being the former. I also feel like her job as a journalist is to look at a story from all angles, to offer a balanced account.

@Phyllis, I explain why I posted this article - and how I see it relating to Mrs. O's style, albeit indirectly - in the last paragraph of the post.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010 at 7:26 PM | Registered CommenterMrs. T

OpFan, why can't she be all those things you named? I have different sides to me, does that make me fake or not authentic? I like Katie Couric. I like that she's serious with the President or some other world leader and giddy and laughing with her (ex)co-worker Matt Lauer. She did not look ridiculous in those pics. Yes, it is a different look, personally I could do without the hair, but the outfits looked fine to me. And I do think that power can equal sexy sometimes. Jay Z is an example of that. I wouldn't give him a second look, but because of who he is, sometimes he can look ok to me.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010 at 7:43 PM | Registered CommenterNyon

I can sympathize with Katie Couric's many sides since I have many sides too, especially depending upon who I'm with, where I'm at, and what I'm doing. I don't have an opinion of her one way or the other, I thought she was good on the Today Show, and from what I've seen of her as an anchorperson she's doing fine there too. I can see how she may annoy people as she does have a chipperness to her that can rub one the wrong way, especially if one is not in the mood for her brand of chippiness.

In terms of her fashion sense, I don't think I've ever noted her clothing, and I used to watch the Today Show almost every single day. So this photo spread is definitely something that has me paying attention to her...perhaps that's the point. I think it's different, and appropriate for the magazine and what they wanted to do in this instance. I would be surprised if she dressed like this to an awards ceremony or some other social event for her industry, though.

In the end, after reading what Givhan said and looking at the pictures, I say good for Couric for trying something very different. You only live once, and I suppose that if I was given the opportunity to do a photo spread in a fashion magazine, and had all sorts of crazy fashion to choose from, I might push the envelope too.

ETA: Just wanted to tie this all into Mrs. O. I do think that the highlighted quote from Mrs. T can be applied to Mrs. O's fashion choices. So many times various people on here have mentioned that Mrs. O is really a different kind of First Lady. It's not only her clothing choices, there is something different about her which is forcing people to think about what we expect a First Lady to look like and act like. She can't be placed in the Laura Bush or Hillary Clinton category which I think many people want to do. She's at once traditional, and also very different.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010 at 8:34 PM | Registered CommenterIVA

Totally agree with OPFAN! I think she looks ridiculous.

I think it's all about the ratings with Diane Sawyer.

I agree we all have many sides---but, she seems to choose the one that gets the most attention.

Princess Diana, (Whom, I adored) started doing these spreads when *she* was searching for herself.

Mrs. O dresses sexy while having class at the same time.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010 at 8:58 PM | Registered Commenterann#1

Well, you know, the clothing choices were not what we'd typically see from Katie Couric but she's having the time of her life. She's seems to be taking very good care of herself and in other interviews, she unapolgetic about dating younger men and being in the over 40 club. Being in a business that is predominatly male, she's holding her own. My best friend said that it looks like she's trying to hard. So to see her playful side takes nothing away from her, even if she's wearing a mini skirt.....great legs Katie!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010 at 9:30 PM | Registered CommenterCharlene in Detroit

Oh, I forgot to mention, that Calvin Klein dress is crazy hot! She looks good in it and don't get me started about those shoes!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010 at 9:54 PM | Registered CommenterCharlene in Detroit

@ Charlene in Detroit - Interesting point about what your friend says, that she tries too hard. I can see that, especially when she moved to nightly news. I am partial to NBC nightly news, but I did check her out a few times and I do think she was having trouble finding herself in the new role, and I think the media hype of her being the only female nightly newscaster put pressure on her a bit that may have not her off her game somewhat.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010 at 10:04 PM | Registered CommenterIVA

@IVA 10:04...yep, I think you're right.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010 at 10:41 PM | Registered Commenterann#1

@Mrs T, the fashion shoot is not "real life" dressing. I see no correlation in the choice of the clothing worn by Katie Couric in the current issue of Harper's Bazaar and Mrs. O's choices in "real life" dressing. Mrs. O's choices are classic in every sense of the word. Sometimes, maybe the color may not right for her complexion or too many ruffles but Mrs. O's choices are never edgy or immature. And shoes.....her shoes are never "over-the-top" as in this fashion lay-out.

Thursday, February 11, 2010 at 7:03 AM | Unregistered CommenterPhyllis

@ Phyllis, the similarity I see is that both women challenge our preconceived notions for how they should dress in their respective roles. I wasn't comparing their styles literally. And while I take your point about "real life" dressing vs. a magazine shoot, I have to think Katie Couric is very much in control of her own public image, and certainly, I would think, had a say in the direction for the shoot.

Thursday, February 11, 2010 at 7:59 AM | Registered CommenterMrs. T

Cut Katie, I mean, Katherine, some slack, please. I think she looks hot! Powerful! Confident! Great! Especially in that Calvin Klein get-up. I've always thought it was an unfair double standard that "punished" women for looking sexy or "feminine" while being smart and running the show. And, Ms. Couric has already proven time and again in her reporting that she is fiercely intelligent and highly efficient on the job. ...As far as sending mixed (personality) signals is concerned, it seems pretty obvious that being "perky" and "lady next door-ish" are the requisite behaviors for morning talk show hosts. (Meredith isn't much different in her role at Katie's old gig. AND, who doesn't have to "put on" a company persona, to some degree, to keep the customers and the bosses happy?) I mean, Do we really expect to see a female morning anchor in full glam? Of course not. But, in the evening--as with all fashion choices for women AND men--we relax and loosen the ties and buttons and hair (etc.) a bit.

Thursday, February 11, 2010 at 9:19 AM | Unregistered CommenterDarrell Diggins

Well, I read all your comments, looked at the pictures again, and I stand by what I said. She has always come across to me as someone who is trying way too hard. I agree completely with Mrs. T that Couric has complete control of what she wears and how she is styled. She could have said no to those outfits, the hair and the provocative poses. My issue with her is that her taste more often than not is toward too short skirts and too high heels. She does have great legs, and apparently works out like a maniac, but so does Mrs. O. The difference is that Mrs. O has a clear sense of how to present herself as a serious, smart woman in the public eye.

Sorry, Nyon (especially) and others of you who came to her defence, but I don't think we're ever going to get me to agree with you on this one.

Friday, February 12, 2010 at 12:19 AM | Registered Commenteroperafanatic

I think Katie looks great in the beige dress. I would not expect to see her "sexy" persona take over while she performs her role as a news anchor, however.

I was not a huge fan of Couric's prior to the 2008 presidential campaign because I thought she was scattered in both appearance and performance. But, after she interviewed Palin, I saw a side of her that was more polished, more professional, and more "news anchor -worthy".

As long as she keeps her sexy self out of the newsroom, I really don't care what she wears during her time off air.

Friday, February 12, 2010 at 3:58 PM | Registered CommenterBevi

You don't have to apologize OpFan. I am not trying to convince you to like her. I just wanted to know why you thought she was fake because she has many different sides to her, which I still don't have a clear understanding, but whatever. We can agree to disagree about that.

Friday, February 12, 2010 at 8:48 PM | Registered CommenterNyon

@ Nyon: as I was running errands yesterday, I was thinking about the conversation we're having here. I have not seen more than a minute or two of the evening news show that Katie Couric does, so my response to her is based on her final couple years on the Today show, pictures in magazines I read at the manicurist (we all know what those are, right?), and appearances like this one in Harper's Bazaar. My objection to her is grounded in the sense that with many of her clothing choices she is trying to grab the spotlight and she's doing so by employing a very overt - even tough and in-your-face - sexuality. Now, it's one thing in an article in a fashion magazine when the spotlight is clearly upon her. But it's something entirely different when she's engaged in journalistic endeavors. At those moments, it's not her spotlight - it's the story's or the interviewee's. I can never shake the feeling that she does this intentionally by wearing clothing that draws attention to her (admittedly great) body. When she does turn on the serious side of herself (as in the Palin interview), I find it impossible to accept because my head is so full of those other images. I feel like Katie Couric is resorting to an outdated behavior which I had hoped was off the table. And she does it so often that I cannot shake those images. She's typecast herself in my mind.

In contrast, no matter how dramatic Mrs. O's clothing, she never forgets what her role is in that particular moment. Many of us here think her dress at the State Dinner for the Prime Minister of India was the most beautiful of her many official outfits. It was also a dress that showed an amount (and area) of skin that we are not accustomed to seeing on a First Lady. The overall effect was beautiful and feminine, but I never felt she was flaunting her sexuality. I never feel she's overdone anything in her clothing or accessories order to grab the spotlight. She wears beautiful clothes that we all notice, but we are still very clear on the message of the moment.

I hope it's clear from words like "in my mind" that I am aware that this is my issue. I'm not trying to convince anyone of my being right. I'm only trying to explain my own, probably peculiar response to Katie Couric.

Saturday, February 13, 2010 at 1:53 PM | Registered Commenteroperafanatic

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