Michelle Obama’s subtle feminist fashion statement sends an empowering message to girls and women worldwide


Let Girls Lean In? I think you mean “Let girls Learn.”

The concept of girls leaning in is kind of troubling, and doesn’t make tons of sense in the context of most Asian cultures, anyway.

Anyway, there’s a pretty big difference between the unelected Michelle Obama—who appears to harbor no political aspiration—and people like Hilary Clinton and Angela Merkel whose decisions on what to wear have more career implications than Obama’s do.

I mean, sure she has a law degree, but I’m pretty sure most people in the world don’t see her first and foremost as a lawyer. Isn’t the real message that you can dress like a girl and dream of marrying the President of the United States?


Come on. Even Barack admits she is the smarter one, and I don’t think he is pandering.

As an aside, while I love her fashion, her husband is no slouch. Well made suits are delightful, and while they may appear to.be uniform they absolutely are not. I guess the best analogy is probably the business card scene from American Psycho.

Pick stitched lapels are mandatory :slight_smile:


The reality isn’t important when we’re talking about what message something sends. There are plenty of people more intelligent than the POTUS, yet their attire doesn’t send much of a message at all because there’s simply nothing to associate their attire with. Michelle Obama isn’t known for being a lawyer. I’m not sure how many people in the US know she is a lawyer, let alone in Asia. What they do know is that she is married to the President, and if they’re going to associate dressing femininely with anything, it’s that.

And isn’t that the specific problem? That women have to spend more time thinking about this? It shouldn’t really matter if someone is wearing a ballgown, a pantsuit, or a clownsuit, that should not really be the criteria by which we judge people, but this falls harder on women then on men.

I get the sense that Michelle Obama stepped away from a high powered career for his political aspirations, and that entailed being more of a feminine figure. But she doesn’t seem to have a problem being comfortable in that role. And they have her mother to help with the kids, so its still women’s unpaid labor that has made Obama’s political career possible.

Also, as a side note, I’m deeply suspicious of “lean in” brand of corporate feminism. It’s meant to benefit corporations and takes a lot of things for granted. It’s very upper middle class centric and ignores the struggles of working class women who have far less choices about “leaning in” than do elite women.

But as you point out, the focus is on education… something that is generally uncontroversial in the US, but perhaps not elsewhere. But this tends to be what all first women focus on, education, reading, anti-drugs, nutrition. All good, non-controversial things - unless of course, you’re Michelle Obama, and then conservatives have a melt down about an organic garden at the white house… :frowning:


That’s true, but the career implication is that if you don’t dress like a man then you can’t be president. Is feminism supposed to free women (and men) so they can wear whatever they want, or is it supposed to do away with anything that could be considered a uniform that reinforces feminine subordination?

I don’t think it’s fair to Michelle Obama, or to the girls she’s trying to inspire. Her choice of outfit is neither good nor bad, but it shouldn’t be panned because it doesn’t conform to some preconceived notion of what a successful woman should look like. And I think Michelle Obama would like to be known as a successful woman in her own right, not just for being married to the PoTUS.

An interesting question is what Clinton or Merkel would wear if it didn’t matter.

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I was responding to your casual remark on having a law degree. It reads as dismissive (and I am sorry if I misread).


I personally think Merkel or Clinton would look amazing in clothes similar to Obamas. And I think perception (albeit slowly) is changing in regards to your point.


Don’t first ladies generally dress in fairly feminine ways? I like Michelle Obama, but this seems a silly thing to praise her for, since it seems to be standard.


There is reason for optimism. There are some heads of state (Cristina Fernandez, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf spring to mind) who don’t restrict themselves to a male uniform.


Without consulting a search engine, do you know who, Joachim Sauer is? He used to work for a company called “BIOSYM Technologies” in San Diego, but he’s a university professor now. Ever heard of him?

The fact that we even know who Michelle Obama is sends a message cementing old gender roles.

She’s a role model for girls who want to become First Ladies, not for girls who want to become presidents, so I don’t expect her clothing choices to either inspire or discourage that latter group.

But somehow, if we want to emphasize that classic feminine clothing styles don’t imply a classic “weak” gender role, we should not pick the First Lady as an example. The ultra-traditional public role that US First Ladies follow felt old-fashioned to me when I was growing up in old-fashioned, conservative Austria in the 1990s.


Angela Merkel sticks to the same pantsuit,changing only the color

Is it just me, or are we all seeing there ads on this page with a naked woman draped over a perfectly cologned fellow?

I agree it’s a problem; it’s just that I don’t see Michelle Obama’s attire as being something that really cuts against the grain or functionally responds to this problem in a meaningful way, because she’s a figure who is defined by her husband, and not defined by herself.

Well, it is dismissive to a certain extent, just like it would be to say that Biden or the Clintons have law degrees: this isn’t what they’re known for, and it’s not why they’re popular figures. If Michelle Obama was just some Sidley Austin lawyer, she wouldn’t be doing a PR junket in Asia, and the media wouldn’t be covering her. Her role there is predicated not upon her being a lawyer but upon her being the First Lady. This is why I don’t think it makes much sense to say that her attire communicates that you can be feminine and be a lawyer (especially since if she was still a lawyer at a firm like Sidley Austin she wouldn’t be dressing like that), as she isn’t perceived as a lawyer but as the wife of the POTUS.

Hillary had better pants beck in the day


The previous two first ladies seemed to wear a lot of pantsuits. The two prior to that wore a lot of Channel suits, some with skirts, others with pants. Not the most feminine profile on those suits.

…Taking it under further consideration, Mrs. Obama wears the most feminine first lady attire since probably Mrs. Nixon.


I guess I am showing a touch of bias and perhaps defensiveness. As a person married to one that is smarter, better educated, and frankly a better dresser than I it feels offensive to dismiss qualifications an advanced degree.


It’s weird, I’m a woman who doesn’t identify as girly. But I do wear skirts and dresses semi-regularly (generally with tights or leggings) along with my usual nerdy t-shirt and jeans attire. I wear comfortable Skechers mary janes rather than heels because I am a tom boy at heart.

I identify FAR more with Michelle’s style than I have any previous first lady – part of that might be because of the time periods, but I don’t think most of it is. Michelle’s clothing choices are sometimes very feminine, but they are also practical and very relate-able – whether she’s wearing a dress or is in something more casual.

The dress pictured in this article is lovely and I really want it! I love the colors. Sans the flower pin, and with tights and flats, it would be something I could easily see in my closet.

A lot of it, too, is her athletic attitude, I think. She is clearly very athletic and on-the-go, and yet looks fantastic in feminine (yet simple) dresses, like the one pictured here. It’s almost like she’s saying, “HEY! You can be super smart, athletic, fit, have tons of energy, get shit done, and still wear dresses and fun things when you are in the mood!”

I definitely really love her style, and I’m not the sort of woman who generally notices that sort of thing.


Are you sure you’re not my long lost twin? Cause that’s my primary uniform, too. With boots lately, but also sometimes Doc Martin Mary Janes…


Perhaps we should give George W Bush more credit for his MBA?

And I’m honestly confused why your marital status (or that of your partner) is relevant if the concern is dismissing advanced degrees.

Michelle Obama’s educational credentials (and I say this as a lawyer) are irrelevant to her position, which is the wife of the POTUS. And her husband’s similar educational credentials are only partially relevant to his position.