Seasoned fashion journalist Kate Betts already gave us a preview of her new book Everyday Icon: Michelle Obama and the Power of Style, by selecting eight iconic Michelle Obama outfits and telling us why they matter.
Seasoned fashion journalist Kate Betts already gave us a preview of her new book Everyday Icon: Michelle Obama and the Power of Style, by selecting eight iconic Michelle Obama outfits and telling us why they matter. After speeding through the book — a definite must read of February — I asked Kate a few questions about how our current first lady combines style and substance. Read our conversation below:
TrèsSugar: In the book you discuss how Michelle Obama's stylish example has impacted young women, especially those who are African American. How does Michelle show style and fashion can empower women, considering we hear about how the fashion industry can have a negative impact on a young woman's self-image?
Kate Betts: For young African American women, she's obviously an amazing role model. She's probably the first style icon that they've known in their lifetime that's not in the entertainment or sports business. That's a powerful thing. She got where nobody thought she could with her intellectual power, and she used her style to carry her on this amazing trajectory. And what I think she's trying to show, without talking about it, is how feeling good about yourself, dressing well, taking care of yourself can empower you. And I think she's speaking directly to young African Americans who strive to emulate her. But I think it's a message for all women.
In Michelle's case, she traveled through unfamiliar territories like Princeton or corporate law firms, and I think her style was totemic for her. It was part of herself that she was holding onto. In those foreign environments it's easy to feel pressure to fit in and to become something else, and I think the White House is the biggest example of that. The pressure to dress for the job and "become" the first lady is intense. But she often says, I'm a better first lady when I'm Michelle Obama than when I'm "The First Lady of the United States."
TS: How come Michelle Obama's "be yourself" message comes off as more authentic than when it's written in women's magazines?
KB: We see Michelle as this authentic person. It feels like her public persona is her private self also. So we really believe her and have faith in her. It's easier than with a magazine that may seem inauthentic because they use models or because there's somehow commerce behind it.
TS: How much of Michelle Obama's regular mom, J.Crew-wearing style is calculated for political reasons? Get the answer, as well as a peek into Michelle's stylish college days, after the jump!