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What Michelle Obama Wore and Why It Mattered


The following is an excerpt from VANESSA FRIEDMAN | January 14, 2017 | Nytimes.com |

It began with Jay Leno.

It began, to be more specific, in October 2008, when Mr. Leno, the host of “The Tonight Show” at the time, turned to his guest, Michelle Obama, the wife of the Democratic nominee for president, and said — with glee, with gotcha expectation, because it had just been revealed that the campaign clothes budget for Sarah Palin, the Republican vice-presidential candidate, was $150,000 — “I want to ask you about your wardrobe. I’m guessing about 60 grand? Sixty, 70 thousand for that outfit?”

“J. Crew,” Mrs. Obama said of her silk blouse, gold skirt and cardigan fastened with a big rhinestone brooch. “Ladies, we know J. Crew. You can get some good stuff online!”

And thus was an eight-year obsession born. Not to mention a new approach to the story of dress and power.

When Mrs. Obama understood the impact of that early answer — when she saw the public response to her outfit (which had been chosen specifically as a riposte to the Palin news) — it set in motion a strategic rethink about the use of clothes that not only helped define her tenure as first lady, but also started a conversation that went far beyond the label or look that she wore and that is only now, maybe, reaching its end.

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