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by on January 21, 2011

Seems like someone’s a little tiffed they haven’t been on the Fierce Lady’s speed dial. Though Michelle Obama may have hit the sartorial bullseye at the state dinner for Chinese president Hu Jintao — donning a red silk Alexander McQueen resort 2011 off-the-shoulder gown and appeasing even the harshest of critics (i.e. Cathy Horyn and Robin Givhan of The New York Times and The Daily Beast, respectively) — Oscar de la Renta was not impressed.

Mrs. O in McQueen Makes Oscar See Red

Photo: Huffington Post

According to WWD:

“My understanding…is that the visit was to promote American-Chinese trade — American products in China and Chinese products in America. Why do you wear European clothes?…I’m not talking about my clothes, my business. I’m old, and I don’t need it. But there are a lot of young people, very talented people here who do.”

Barring the fact that de la Renta has been outfitting First Ladies since before Betty Ford had her clinic, Mo has a well-documented reputation of wearing and supporting lesser known American designers.

Bitter, much?

Robin Givhan, however, felt — rather intensely — that the nationality of the designer had less to do with her choice than what the gown meant as a statement:

“The red petal print, silk organza gown wasn’t so much an act of diplomacy as a broad statement about the new realities of the fashion industry. In choosing a dress from Alexander McQueen, Mrs. Obama championed the cause of artisan design, the legacy of bespoke tailoring, and the staggering creativity that can be nurtured in the frock trade when it is at its best.”

Or she thought, “Hey, it’s China, they’re communists, right? Give me that McQueen number, hack off the sleeves and sweep my hair up in a regal crown, I’m reading to orphan children right now.”

I’m sure there was more than that to Mo’s decision, but the extent of Givhan’s analysis might be a little over the top. Still she makes an incredibly incisive and enlightening point:

“In wearing the gown to honor China, a country that many view with disdain for its abundance of cheap labor, counterfeit products, and poor labor practices, Mrs. Obama seemed to be recognizing the country’s inevitable place in the fashion cycle and giving it its due. Indeed, Chinese consumers represent a vast new marketplace for designer companies, and the production quality of its factories continues to improve. In short, Mrs. Obama’s choice was an optimistic celebration of all that fashion can be and it seemed to suggest that China was welcome to be a part of that vision.”

I’m going to say it once, if you like it you should throw a goddamn Pulitzer at it. Again.

Link Love: NY Mag


Contributed by Lester Brathwaite

I was center square from 1969 to 1978, during which I perfected the art of the zing as well as a crippling cocaine addiction. Bea Arthur was responsible for both. @LesFabian lester dot brathwaite at gmail

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