Michelle Obama breaks down her style strategy during her time in the White House with brutal honesty
Former US first lady Michelle Obama has reflected on the strategy that informed her personal style during her eight years in the White House.
Mrs Obama said she noticed early on in the campaign trail that much of the focus on her was around what she was wearing - rather than what she was doing - and sometimes, her perceived faux pas were used as ammunition for criticism .
"Sometime during Barack’s campaign, people began paying attention to my clothes. Or at least the media paid attention, which provoked all manner of commentary across the internet," she writes in her memoirs Becoming. "My pearls, my belts, my cardigans, my off-the-rack dresses from J. Crew, my apparently brave choice of white for an inaugural gown - all seemed to trigger a slew of opinions and instant feedback.
"Late in the summer of 2009, we went on a family trip in the Grand Canyon, and I was lambasted for an apparent lack of dignity when I was photographed getting off Air Force One (in 106-degree heat, I might add) dressed in a pair of shorts. It seemed that my clothes mattered more to people than anything I had to say."
Despite her frustrations at some outlets fixation exclusively on her fashion, she harnessed that power as a force of good, showcasing up-and-coming designers and highlighting American labels like J.Crew, which were more accessible than Oscar de la Renta, whom she says was "displeased" by the fact she rarely, if ever, wore his work.
She covered the costs of her day-to-day wardrobe, whereas dramatic pieces for state dinners were loaned to her by the designers and later donated to the National Archives.
"When it came to my choices, I tried to be somewhat unpredictable, to prevent anyone from ascribing any sort of message to what I wore. It was a thin line to walk. I was supposed to stand out without overshadowing others, to blend in but not fade away," she explained.
"As a black woman, too, I knew I’d be criticised if I was perceived as being showy and high-end, and I’d also be criticized if I was too casual. So I mixed it up. I’d match a Michael Kors skirt with a T-shirt from Gap. I wore something from Target one day and Diane von Furstenberg the next. I wanted to draw attention to and celebrate American designers, especially those who were less established, even if it sometimes frustrated the old guard, including Oscar de la Renta, who was reportedly displeased that I wasn’t wearing his creations.
"For me, my choices were simply a way to use my curious relationship with the public gaze to boost a diverse set of up-and-comers."