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Mrs. O and Ikram, Still Collaborating?

Well, this is an interesting twist. In a new Washington Post piece by Nia-Malika Henderson, here, the first lady "denied reports that she has changed her stylist, Ikram Goldman." This runs counter to recent stories from esteemed fashion journalists Robin Givhan and Cathy Horyn, here and here.

Givhan reported that "Goldman ... hasn't been riding herd over the first lady's wardrobe in some time," while Horyn wrote, "For what it’s worth, I hear that Ikram Goldman, the Chicago retailer, is no longer directly involved with Mrs. Obama’s wardrobe, since December."

Is it a matter of semantics, perhaps the word "stylist"? Or merely circulation of bad information? Hmm ... this is quite peculiar. 

On the fashion front, she continues to draw attention and headlines for every outfit, no matter the circumstance - New York Magazine's Web site ran an item titled "Michelle Obama Observed a Moment of Silence in Narciso Rodriguez" when she donned a blue overcoat in the wake of the Tucson shootings. And her choice of a floor-length Alexander McQueen gown for the state dinner honoring China drew scrutiny from conservatives for its color (red), and some in the fashion industry balked that she went with a British design house. She denied reports that she has changed her stylist, Ikram Goldman.

"I like to patronize American designers, and the vast majority of the clothes that I wear are. But there are a lot of other designers that have cute stuff, too. So I don't think that I'm any different from any other woman other than the fact that people see what I wear and then they talk about it," she said.

"But my decisions aren't so complex. It's really just sort of: 'How cold is it? Do I have to stand outside?' and 'What am I going to use to cover my arms if I'm freezing so I'm not shivering while I have to give a speech?' It's really stuff like that."

"Michelle Obama's unfolding legacy" [The Washington Post]

"Michelle Obama on what she wears" [Politico]

"More Evidence That Michelle Obama Has Ditched Stylist Ikram Goldman" [NYMag]

Reader Comments (24)

This may be a matter of semantics. The word "stylist". In the detailed articles about Ikram's relationship with Michelle Obama, Ikram was reported to be constantly shopping for her and sending clothes and accessories to the White House. So perhaps "personal shopper" would be more accurate?

Young Ms. Koop has recently been described as her stylist.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011 at 8:53 AM | Unregistered CommenterBeeGee

Both reporters did not seem to know for sure. Ms. Horyn said "I hear". Perhaps Ms. Goldman has never "been riding herd" and has only always had an advisory role and was given more importance than actually existed. Mrs. Obama seems to wear what she likes, at any given moment, and it never seemed to me that she was being directed by anyone. Clothes arrives at the White House and she picks the ones with belts! Because she likes belts and not because Ms. Goldman recommends belts. She was wearing another highwaisted one this morning on Regis and Kelly. I have come to accept them. Do you know any woman who would be criticized so much for her outfits who would not change her ways. First Ladies tow the line. Michelle is her own woman. She has told us very clearly what her fashion world view is.

And I appreciate this medium where I can express my opinions

Wednesday, February 9, 2011 at 10:01 AM | Registered Commenterladywatcher

Mrs. O will continue to be what she has always been. A self-assured, competent, classy, cool, fun woman, who will wear as she pleases.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011 at 10:22 AM | Registered Commenterari2

I am truly disconcerted to see her (gloss over is really not what i want to say but for the sake of the commentators who will attack me) gloss over the complexity of her wardrobe choices. Anyone, Mrs. T included, can see the profound thought that goes into her seamless sartorial politics. Other than 'McQueen-gate', the one thing EVERYONE can agree on even when they hate the clothes is that she does an amazing job at being appropriate and conveying profound political messages with subtlety. I read this and instantly thought this article has to have falsified quotes but I highly doubt it as this was published in The Washington Post. My trepidations are 1. How could TWO esteemed fashion journalists get it COMPLETELY wrong? 2. "...there are a lot of other designers that have cute stuff, too..." I can hardly believe she articulated herself in this way. 3. For someone who has cultivated an almost impeccable public image (minus 'for the first time in my life I am really proud of my country' and the Spain trip), to play down the thought she puts into her wardrobe choices when she is one of the most fashionable women in the world MIGHT rub everyday women the wrong way. Women who shop at K-Mart simply worry about the weather. All other women CARE. Especially the FLOTUS - and one who wears Marc Jacobs and Lanvin to business meetings. There is something women don't like about beautiful, fashionable women that go "This old thing?' ...I find this VERYconfusing...

Wednesday, February 9, 2011 at 12:03 PM | Unregistered CommenterRory

yep, she will not be swayed, or forced into wearing clothes other than what she loves! I some people
don't like it, don't look at here then...or maybe go find someone else to look at.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011 at 12:13 PM | Unregistered CommenterAdear

Personally, it is not hard to believe that she does not put hours into choosing what she wants to wear. Especially since many women like her wear what they want depending on occasion and how they are feeling. What she said about choosing to wear what is "cute" is how the average woman picks clothes.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011 at 12:25 PM | Registered CommenterM.M.

@Rory - I dont think its confusing at all; I think its consistent. She doesnt want to be known solely for her fashion choices - even if for the most part they are spot on. She wants to be known for more than her fashion which is why I think she continues to downplay it.
Also, we're the ones analyzing her choices; I dont think most people go throught this analysis when selecting an outfit. Should this now change because she's in the public eye? I think she's doing a fine job with her sartorial choices and we have the luxury of wallowing in her selections. PS - I'm not attacking, just sharing my opinion.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011 at 1:02 PM | Unregistered CommenterAM


I see what you are saying. But I think that Michelle can't really talk extensively about her clothing choices without coming off as flighty and insubstantial. She's between a rock and hard place -- there will be one group that will say "come on, she knows full well about clothing as symbolism;" and there will be another group that will say "why is she engaging in all these airheaded discussions about clothes?"

I understand why she has made a choice to fall on the "I just wear what I like" side of the equation. It's not her job to try to convince the country of fashion's larger worth, when so many people consider such issues to be trivial -- this board excluded!

(And of course, fashion is trivial until Mrs. O does something like wear a cardigan or an Alexander McQueen dress or leggings or shorts -- then all of a sudden fashion becomes the most important thing ever, and it's the end of the friggin' world.)

Anyway. I don't think she really likes to talk about her clothes if they overshadow her other efforts, and saying the equivalent of "oh, this old thing?" allows her to get out of the conversation with some grace. Maybe fashion mavens like you and I might not like it, but I think it's the best she can do.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011 at 1:05 PM | Registered CommenterChristina

I, personally, have been feeling like the talk of Ikram's departure or diminshed influence as gossip at best. None of the talk seemed substantiated and it all appeared to be either in the form of a question, as Mrs. T posed a few posts ago, or in the form of "I hear, I've heard," as in the way Givhan and the other author presented the idea of Ikram no longer being involved in Mrs. O's clothing choices.

In terms of Mrs. O's description of her fashion sense, I agree with Christina. While it might sound like she's belittling the importance of her clothing, I don't think she can do anything else. The overwhelming number of Americans do not see fashion as a serious business and topic. It is mostly put in the "trivial" box. And given these hard economic times, I especially think people feel that way about fashion. So, in order to keep on message about her initiatives, she has chosen to downplay her thoughts on fashion.

Lastly, I have long felt she picks out her own clothes and has the final say in what she wears. The evidence, to me, has been in the fact that there are moments where she hits it, and moments where she misses it. That's so very normal of her...we all do that. If she constantly met with a stylist, I think she'd have few misses as a stylist would be 100% focused on the details and on her being on point each and every day and moment. But since she's doing it all on her own, she can't devote the attention to the details, therefore there will be moments where she's off the mark.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011 at 1:14 PM | Registered CommenterIVA

Christina and IVA - Well said!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011 at 2:40 PM | Unregistered CommenterAdear

Rory, I understand your point because as much as many of us may say we don't care too much about our clothing, we all want to look good. However, I do have issue with you saying "women who shop at K MART simply worry about the weather". This statement cannot be further from the truth. Women who shop at K Mart HAVE TO, they don't shop there because they want to. They want to look good as well and that's why stores like K Mart, Wal Mart, and Target have stepped their game up in the fashion department. I also don't think that was a disingenious statement. Why can't she worry about the weather and pick out a cute outfit? Isn't that what we all do? Isn't that why you would choose your D&G boots over your D&G flip flops if it's snow out? Not trying to be sarcastic, just trying to get some perspective.

Like she said, she wears what she likes and she hopes people think it is nice. I also agree with Christina and Iva, in that if she spent more than the 2 mins she usually talks about her fashion, people (other than us, of course) would have a fit. And in my twisted mind it's her way of saying, "I can wear what the bleep I want, so stay out of my bleep business!" LOL!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011 at 2:40 PM | Registered CommenterNyon

"Mrs. O Denies Change of Stylist", ????

Christina and Iva, I agree with your posts.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011 at 3:15 PM | Registered CommenterSoccerNana

@Nyon - KMART comment conceded/ you're right. @Christina and AM - Seeing it from you guys' point of view, I have to say I completely agree with your reasoning and I am no longer confused. I STILL feel though, (none of you feel the same way?) that she simplified it a bit TOO much. I am 100% sure that there is some serious fashion psychology and sartorial diplomacy being employed in her role as FLOTUS - has anyone else noticed that she and Carla Bruni wear the exact same thing every time they meet?? (probably to avoid a FASHION FACE-OFF! which would detract from the global issue at hand) forget the G-20 Summits, overseas trips, and State Dinners. Just use White House events. Remember when she wore MOISES de la Renta after his dad made the sweater comment? How about the Lanvin evening dress that was cut shorter and worn at a kindergarten? Alexander McQueen after Lee Mcqueen's death, Cinco de Mayo/St. Patrick's day any one?...I could go on and on using examples where she was so smart and subtle in highlighting an issue or holiday with her clothes or just felt like dressing up that day. Come on guys! The amount of thought she puts in paired with the amount of interest should not produce an analysis as simple as that. American and British Vogue, Elle, Glamour, NYT, Washington Post all routinely cover what she wears. The Huffington Post has its own Michelle Obama tab in the style section as does ABC news' website. Books have been published on her style after only 2 years in office! People my point is: It's not as if there is some small cult obsession with her fashion, it is a bona fide global phenomenon! Throw a dog a bone, we're not asking for the whole steak! :)

Wednesday, February 9, 2011 at 3:28 PM | Unregistered CommenterRory

"I hope that in the year to come I provide you with more interesting things to talk about other than my dress," Mrs. Obama said at the end of the luncheon.

Love that woman!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011 at 3:37 PM | Registered CommenterSoccerNana

@ Rory

"Throw a dog a bone, we're not asking for the whole steak! :)"

LOL! I totally understand where you're coming from. Just like how today she wore a $35 dress from H&M -- you can't tell me that after the (entirely overblown) controversy over the Mcqueen state dinner gown, it was not a specific decision to wear something a bit more "downmarket" during this latest round of public appearances.

But I think that the most we'll probably get from Michelle is "I just wear what I like! I'm a simple woman, with simple tastes!" Even though we know there's more to it than that.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011 at 6:46 PM | Registered CommenterChristina

@ All,

I so enjoyed reading today’s debate. The opinions expressed and related interactions were conscientious, civil, and well-thought out. Contributors like you, Mrs. T’s reflections, the beautiful pictures of Mrs. O…. are many of the reasons why I come to this site. My thanks to all of you.


Wednesday, February 9, 2011 at 7:46 PM | Unregistered CommenterTerri Austin-Randolph aka Mrs. sTAR

Agreed Mrs. sTAR. I enjoyed the string of comments above. I have to say, I was genuinely surprised by the statement in the Washington Post piece re: Ikram. It must be semantics, as explained by BeeGee. I agree that Cathy Horyn used soft language, but Robin Givhan was more direct. My original post a few weeks ago was also more informed than what I directly disclosed. So I do find this confusing.

In terms of the other comments from Mrs. Obama, I agree with the assessment above. I think this is somewhat about image management ... trying to diffuse the fashion conversation and refocus on "Let's Move," which makes sense.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011 at 9:36 PM | Registered CommenterMrs. T

Mrs. O could just be fibbing about Ikram. In her position, I could understand why she might do that. If she were to say "Yes, actually, I'm branching out and new input managing my wardrobe" then the next question would of course be, why? Michelle would probably decline to carry that line of questioning further (because she doesn't want people to think that all she does is talk about clothes), which would then lead folks to start speculating -- did they have a falling out? Were the clothes too avant-garde, too pricey, too controversial, too foreign?

I'm not saying outright that she lied, but I can understand her giving whatever answer that would bring that line of questioning to a close. And we all know Ikram would not offer a contradiction. So your sources very well may still be right, Mrs. T.

Thursday, February 10, 2011 at 12:12 AM | Registered CommenterChristina

Christina, Mrs Obama and Ikram have never publicly discussed their relationship beyond Mrs Obama acknowledging that she shops at Ikram's.

Why would Ikram who has been impeccably discreet divulge the status of their relationship now??
The same people who bitched about Ikram's perceived monopoly (even when Mrs O wore J.Crew!), now want to speculate on Ikram's "departure".

Robin Givhan and Cathy Horyn are not infallible and have always relied on assumptions in matters relating to Mrs Obama and Ikram.

They could NEVER get Ikram to confirm or deny her relationship with Mrs O, what makes anyone think they have the story right this time?! By the way, "esteemed" is rather subjective especially with regard to speculative assertions.

And why would Mrs Obama "fib" about something so silly and inconsequential?! It's important that in anonymously participating on a fashion blog, people don't get carried away - especially with the over-familiarity, disrespect and rumor-mongering.

Unless of course one is in the running to feed and fuel the damage-focused gossip mill!

And sorry Rory, your repetition of already debunked talking points - " (minus 'for the first time in my life I am really proud of my country' and the Spain trip)" - seriously suspect lady!

And the idea that such easy and effortless stuff such as wearing a McQueen blouse to memorialize the man a day after news of his tragic death and wearing green for St. Paddy's day etc. would need directives from a "stylist", is not only silly but insulting.

I am not the first lady of the United States but like a lot of of women, I think through clothing choices for most events - even for stuff as routine and mundane as daily meetings with any number and types of people and groups!

The idea that Mrs Obama is so clueless or challenged that someone has to take credit for her daily clothing choices is simply absurd! And some of the points offered to bolster this argument are quite reaching and inane.

Thursday, February 10, 2011 at 8:40 AM | Registered CommenterC.

@ C.

I'm not sure who you're exercised at, but it can't be me. I gave a pretty good and honest description of why I think Mrs. O would "fib" when asked a question about Ikram -- because she doesn't want to talk about clothes that much, and she doesn't feel like it's anyone's business. People deflect questions all the time, that's a part of being a politician. I'm not offended by this; I personally don't care whether she feels like talking about Ikram or not. But it's no secret that what someone says publicly may be different from what's happening behind the scenes, so why should that be any different with Michelle Obama?

Thursday, February 10, 2011 at 11:57 AM | Registered CommenterChristina

Personally I'm not particularly interested in who is dressing the First Lady, if anyone is, and I never care who designed what dress or what nationality that designer is. I just like the First Lady's style. I don't care about fashion, but I am a fan of Mrs. O's style. Even when I don't particularly like her choices, they are always interesting. I think we all come here for different reasons, but I do enjoy the conversations. Things are so much more civil at this site than any other website that I frequent.

Thursday, February 10, 2011 at 2:50 PM | Unregistered CommenterTerri

C. wrote: "Robin Givhan and Cathy Horyn are not infallible and have always relied on assumptions in matters relating to Mrs Obama and Ikram. They could NEVER get Ikram to confirm or deny her relationship with Mrs O, what makes anyone think they have the story right this time?! By the way, "esteemed" is rather subjective especially with regard to speculative assertions. "

Robin Givhan has a Pulitzer Prize in journalism and Cathy Horyn is a fashion critic for The New York Times. I don't think it's a "speculative assertion" to refer to them as esteemed fashion journalists.

Friday, February 11, 2011 at 3:34 PM | Registered CommenterMrs. T

@Mrs. T

Thank you for the kind and lovely shout-out. Please keep up the great work.


Saturday, February 12, 2011 at 6:22 PM | Unregistered CommenterTerri Austin-Randolph aka Mrs. sTAR

"Robin Givhan has a Pulitzer Prize in journalism and Cathy Horyn is a fashion critic for The New York Times. I don't think it's a "speculative assertion" to refer to them as esteemed fashion journalists."

"Speculative assertion" is indeed what they have both done with regard to the Ikram/Mrs Obama relationship status~

With regard to being "esteemed fashion journalists" because one has a Plitzer Prize in journalism and the other writes for the NYTimes - I still think: pretty subjective - seeing that even though you and others do find them both to be "esteemed", there are people like me who do not...

"Esteemed" in my opinion requires that one works with integrity and honor at all times and that includes verifying facts and sources and not falling prey to gossip and hearsay and other titillating details and actions that succumb to mediocrity and degradation of what could be superior standards - and I find that lacking in some of their work...

Sorry Mrs T...

Sunday, February 13, 2011 at 1:28 AM | Registered CommenterC.

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