Diary

Clothes: Sarah Palin's vs Michelle Obama's

I won’t reiterate the hoopla that was made during the campaign over the NRC getting Sarah Palin some extra clothes to wear. But it’s worth contrasting it with the reporting on Michelle Obama’s threads.

At last night’s bash for the Hollywood limousine liberals and the Indian Prime Minister, Michelle went all out on her dress it seems. Quotes below are from one AP article, though I’ve changed the order a bit.

First lady Michelle Obama chose to wear a gleaming silver-sequined, cream-colored gown Tuesday night to the first state dinner held by her husband’s administration. She was tending to her hostess duties in a strapless silhouette with the beads forming an abstract floral pattern that was custom-made by Naeem Khan.

She wore a matching wrap, a stack of bangle bracelets on her wrist and dangling earrings.

The guests of honor at the dinner were Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his wife, Gursharan Kaur, making Mrs. Obama’s choice of the Indian-born, U.S.-based designer seem very appropriate.

So far so good.

Khan told CNN’s Larry King that his goals were to dress the first lady in something “Indian, chic, simple but very glamorous.”

Designer Khan is no stranger to helping women make a grand entrance; he has become a fixture on the Hollywood red-carpet circuit, dressing Beyonce, Carrie Underwood, Katherine Heigl and even Queen Noor of Jordan. Mrs. Obama’s gown took three weeks at the designer’s family workshop in India — with 40 people working on it — to complete, Khan said.

So it took over two person-years of work to make one dress for Michelle Obama to wear for a couple of hours, never to be seen again? Gee, was any child labor involved? Did the people get paid a living wage? Were working conditions monitored? Imagine if Palin wore something that took two years’ worth of labor! The AP would send a dozen people over for weeks to try to find an underage, underpaid, overworked seamstress.

Earlier today for a preview of the event, Mrs. Obama wore a skirt by Rachel Roy, also an Indian-American. “That gave us a preview that she was going to use clothes to convey a meaning,” said Mary Tomer, author of the new book “Mrs. O: The Face of Fashion Democracy.”

“They were really thoughtful choices,” she said.

“I think she looks fabulous,” said Tomer. “She walked out in something that’s figure-flattering and chic. Naeem’s work is known for glamour and embellishment and this dress seems to embody that. She’s sparkling and radiant.”

So there is some deep meaning demonstrated by Michelle’s extensive staff getting her Indian clothes to wear when an Indian politician is visiting?

“The nice thing about it is the Jackie Kennedy sort of appropriateness. Most people wouldn’t know one way or another about Naeem’s background, but if one sentence gets mentioned to the prime minister, then her subtleness would pay off,” added Hal Rubenstein, fashion director for InStyle magazine.

Rubenstein said he was impressed that Mrs. Obama used her fashion knowledge to choose a sophisticated and regal style that paid homage to India without wearing a traditional sari-style dress, which could have come off as a costume next to India’s first lady.

Of Mrs. Obama, Rubenstein said: “She looks like she’s worth her weight in solid gold. What I love about her is that it’s a pleasure to watch a woman of size and stature not apologize for her height and know how to stand tall.”

Ah, more nuance and style and meaning to be found in Michelle’s selection. Sarah Palin was unfit for office because the NRC rents some clothes for her; Michelle gets compared to Jackie O. for wearing a dress that wasted thousands of hours of human resources.