Say what you will, first lady Michelle Obama is in a fashion catagory of her own. Since arriving in the White House, she has been applauded by her fans for her poise, grace and class, making her a great example for young girls. Women of all nations and races also embrace the first lady for creating a style aesthetic that they can emulate by mixing high-priced fashions with cheaper pieces available at outlets like Target. Some love her for this, but fashion activist Elizabeth Cline isn’t so impressed. According to the Daily Mail, Cline feels that Mrs. Obama, by wearing inexpensive clothing that is foreign made, is actually contributing to the plight of bad American shopping habits that hurt the apparel industry.
“I think it’s ridiculous that she’s always lauded as this example of democratic fashion or that she’s so American because her fashion is accessible,” Cline stated in a piece on The Huffington Post. “The reality is that the garment and textile trade has been a dying industry for the last 10 years. So why are we so excited when we see our first lady in cheap, imported clothes?” Cline believes the first lady’s support of fast fashion contributes to the widespread trend of buying large volumes of poorly constructed items at the expense of the environment and American jobs.
This isn’t the first time Mrs. Obama has been ridiculed for her sartorial choices. In 2011, one of the world’s leading fashion designers, Oscar de la Renta, sounded off about the first lady wearing a dress made by a European designer at a state dinner for Chinese President Hu Jintao, rather than an American designer.
Yet, Michelle has also been lauded for promoting unknown American designers, making superstars out of lucky folks like Jason Wu, who designed her inaurgual gown.
Cline may have a point about the perils of mass consumption of cheap clothing in general, but this is not something Mrs. O alone is privy to. And her contributions to American fashion should not be overlooked. In addition to wearing home grown designers like Tracey Reese and Rachael Roy, Obama has been noted to have created over $3 billion in value for the local style economy by wearing American brands.
Love it or hate it, Cline can’t deny that the first lady’s sense of style has had a particularly positive effect on American companies — which does help our economy. The overall state of manufacturing might be too heavy a burden to place on her soldiers as well.
Follow Chivone Smith on Twitter at @misswriterinc.