First lady Michelle Obama made a big hit at the third presidential debate last night in Boca Raton, Florida. Donning a Thom Browne dress that she first wore on the second night of the Democratic National Convention, Mrs. O accented the frock the second time around with a brooch and a black belt, giving the familiar piece a dressier air. “It was serious, yet playful. Dark, but not maudlin,” opines the Philadelphia Enquirer about her choice.
“She looked absolutely lovely,” adds Rebecca Adams of The Huffington Post about the look, going with the mantra, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” about Michelle repeating the same dress in such a short period of time.
Ann Romney’s floral ombre Oscar de la Renta look with a pleated skirt did not receive similar rave reviews. While both women selected subdued-toned garments with feminine silhouettes, Romney’s ensemble was not as well-composed. The Daily Beast called it “not as fashion-forward as Obama’s choice, and with a big, pleated floral skirt, it was a little frumpy.”
The outlet also theorizes that Michelle Obama chose to do a repeated look as an expression of camaraderie during a time when many Americans are struggling financially. She might have an extensive designer wardrobe, but like the rest of us, also has limited resources. Perhaps, “it was a symbol of restraint, an appeal to all Americans: really, I’m just like you,” the Beast muses.
The first lady’s relationship to the fashion world has come under scrutiny in recent days, as some are questioning whether the style community has turned its back on Ann Romney in favor of Michelle. While designers chosen by Mrs. Obama often publicly boast about their luck, “the fashion world has remained particularly quiet on the Ann Romney fashion front,” Fox News reports.
Is it possible that “Obama supporter Anna Wintour is keeping stylists and designers away, silently threatening their standing should they endeavor to promote their outfitting of the wife of a Republican presidential hopeful,” as Fox states? According to its analysis the answer is yes. Yet, the overwhelming desire of Wintour, whose influence as the editor-in-chief of Vogue magazine on culture is tremendous, is to get politics to take fashion seriously.
The impact and intrigue that both Michelle Obama and Ann Romney have stirred through their sartorial choices at the debates and on the campaign trail — particularly by comparing and contrasting the two — certainly shows that the power of style in politics is indeed rising in the informal poll of public opinion.
Follow Alexis Garrett Stodghill on Twitter at @lexisb.