Living legend André Leon Talley wrote the cover story on Michelle Obama in the new issue of Vogue, and though ALT is fashion-obsessed, he concedes that the First Lady is less so:
What Michelle Obama is less focused on-in direct inverse proportion to the focus of the public-is fashion. Which isn't to say that she doesn't appreciate good clothes. Or that the fashion choices of a woman whose image will shortly be-or already is-among the most recognizable in the entire world aren't iconic. And thus far, those choices have been fearless. Every moment she sallies forth, she will be scrutinized, then alternately set on a pedestal or skewered. Which, thankfully, hasn't put the brakes on her enthusiasm or originality-so markedly different from, but for an exception or two, previous presidential partners who shrank from matters of style or played it safe. Her self-possession is an inspiration. "I love clothes," she admits. "First and foremost, I wear what I love. That's what women have to focus on: what makes them happy and what makes them feel comfortable and beautiful. If I can have any impact, I want women to feel good about themselves and have fun with fashion."
Talley continues: "Pragmatism, not glamour, is what matters when she gets dressed," But, this being Vogue, there is also a paragraph about that plain black cardigan the First Lady wore on November 4 in Grant Park. Ms. Obama explains: "Some will think that a sweater was horrible, [but] I was cold; I needed that sweater!"
More interesting, of course, are the non-fashion statements Ms. Obama makes, like about her daughters, Sasha (née Natasha!) and Maila:
"I'm going to try to take them to school every morning-as much as I can. But there's also a measure of independence. And obviously there will be times I won't be able to drop them off at all. I like to be a presence in my kids' school. I want to know the teachers; I want to know the other parents."
"I've been grateful that my girls have been able to see parts of the country that I'm just seeing at the age of 44. It's not only seeing Paris, London, and Rome. It's also the remote places… exposing them to what we hope all kids will have: a feeling that they are citizens of the world."
Even though Caroline Kennedy has shared her memories with Ms. Obama ("My mother always told me that the happiest times we spent as a family were in the White House because we were all together," Kennedy says. "After years of campaigning, I am sure the Obamas will feel the same way."), Ms. Obama knows that, Jackie comparisons aside, she is no Kennedy. Or Bush, obviously. "We like to joke that the South Side of Chicago is our Kennebunkport," she says. And: "We learned in our household that there was nothing you couldn't talk about and that you found humor in even some of the toughest times. I want to bring that spirit of warmth, openness, and stability to my task."
And it's clear that this White House will be a very different White House than this country has ever had before. Ms. Obama says:
"We want entertaining in the White House to feel like America, that we are reminded of all the many facets of our culture. The Latino community, the Asian-American community, the African-American community.…Hip-hop, spoken word-we want to bring the youth in, for them to hear their voices in this. […] We want to make sure that our young people remember and understand what classical music is, who some of the great American artists are… I am excited about the potential of the White House kitchen being a learning environment for the community. The current chef, Cristeta Comerford, is the only female chef in the history of the White House. She's a young Filipina woman, a mother with a young child, and I am excited to get to know her and for her to know us as a family. If you think about all the kids interested in finding out about all of the inner workings of the White House-I'm hoping that we can build a team to reach out."
Talley makes a point of saying that he first met Ms. Obama in 2005, as then Senator Barack Obama's wife. "Do I remember what Michelle was wearing? Not at all. What I do remember was how informed she was on so many topics." And yet! He writes of his Amtrak trip to with the Obamas from Philadelphia to D.C.:
Knowing I had to ask what she was wearing, she graciously divulged that her lavender jacket-worn with leggings and sexy, flat black-suede boots-was by Zero + Maria Cornejo. "This jacket was supposed to have a belt," she said. "I love a belt, but we forgot it."
Really cerebral stuff.
Leading Lady [Vogue.com]