What Michelle Obama Wore and Why It Mattered
It began with Jay Leno.
It began, to be more specific, in October 2008, when Leno, host of “The Tonight Show” at the time, turned to his guest, Michelle Obama, 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?”
更确切地说，是从2008年10月开始的。当时刚刚有消息披露说，共和党副总统候选人萨拉·佩林(Sarah Palin)的竞选服装预算是15万美元，于是时任《今夜秀》(The Tonight Show)主持人的雷诺转向他的嘉宾，民主党总统提名人之妻米歇尔·奥巴马(Michelle Obama)，带着一种“抓住你了”的劲头兴高采烈地问道，“我想问个与你的衣柜有关的问题。我猜大约是六万大元？你这套装备要六七万吧？”
“J. Crew,” 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!”
“J. Crew，”奥巴马说起自己身上的丝绸衬衫、金色裙子以及用一个大大的水钻胸针系住的羊毛开衫。“女士们，我们都知道J. Crew。网上能找到一些好东西！”
And thus was an eight-year obsession born. Not to mention a new approach to the story of dress and power.
When 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.
Though amid discussion of legacy and historical change fashion may seem the least of the matter, consider the number of words devoted to what both the first lady and President Barack Obama wore since the original campaign began. Consider that for 5 1/2 years there was a blog chronicling Michelle Obama’s wardrobe choices, arguably the first devoted to the clothes of a political figure, and that when Barack Obama wore a tan suit to a news conference it practically broke the internet (ditto when he eschewed a tie). Consider that Michelle Obama’s effect on fashion brands was the subject of a study by a New York University professor in the Harvard Business Review titled “How This First Lady Moves Markets.”
虽然有种种关于政治遗产和历史变化的讨论，时尚在其中似乎是最不重要的话题，但是，要考虑到，从第一次竞选开始，有多少文章专门探讨这位第一夫人和贝拉克·奥巴马总统(Barack Obama)的着装。要考虑到，在五年半的时间里，有一个博客专门记录米歇尔·奥巴马的服装选择，它可以说是第一个专门记录一位政治人物服装的博客。还要考虑到，贝拉克·奥巴马身穿浅黄色西服参加新闻发布会的事真的引爆了互联网（还有他不戴领带那次）。还要考虑到，纽约大学(New York University)一名教授在哈佛商业评论(Harvard Business Review)上发表名为《这位第一夫人如何推动了市场》(How This First Lady Moves Markets)，研究的主题正是米歇尔·奥巴马对时装品牌的影响。
Consider all that, and there is simply no ignoring the fact that during these two terms, clothing played a role unlike any it had ever played before in a presidential administration.
A noncomprehensive litany of some of the designers whose clothes the first lady wore during her husband’s two terms in office includes: Carolina Herrera, Narciso Rodriguez, Michael Kors, Maria Cornejo, Thom Browne, Isabel Toledo, Jason Wu, Prabal Gurung, Donna Karan, Marc Jacobs, Oscar de la Renta, Ralph Lauren, Marchesa, Tom Ford, Vera Wang, Tadashi Shoji, Cushnie et Ochs, Tory Burch, Naeem Khan, Brandon Maxwell, Rodarte, Bibhu Mohapatra, Zac Posen, Barbara Tfank, Alexander Wang, Rag & Bone, Joseph Altuzarra, Tracy Reese, Monique Lhuillier, Thakoon, Christian Siriano, Calvin Klein, Sophie Theallet, Reed Krakoff, Diane von Furstenberg, Derek Lam, Proenza Schouler and Alice & Olivia. Also Talbots. And Target. And Ann Taylor. Sheesh.
第一夫人在丈夫的两届任期里穿过许多设计师的服装，下面是一份不完整名单：卡洛琳娜·海莱娜(Carolina Herrera)、纳西索·罗德里格斯(Narciso Rodriguez)、迈克·高仕(Michael Kors)、玛利亚·科奈约(Maria Cornejo)、桑姆·布朗(Thom Browne)、伊莎贝尔·托莱多(Isabel Toledo)、吴季刚(Jason Wu)、普拉巴·高隆(Prabal Gurung)、唐娜·卡兰(Donna Karan)、马克·雅可布(Marc Jacobs)、奥斯卡·德拉伦塔(Oscar de la Renta)、拉夫·劳伦(Ralph Lauren)、玛切萨(Marchesa)、汤姆·福特(Tom Ford)、王薇薇(Vera Wang)、庄司正(Tadashi Shoji)、Cushnie et Ochs、托里·伯奇(Tory Burch)、纳伊姆·汗(Naeem Khan)、布兰顿·麦斯威尔(Brandon Maxwell)、罗达特(Rodarte)、比布·莫哈帕特拉(Bibhu Mohapatra)、扎克·波森(Zac Posen)、芭芭拉·范可(Barbara Tfank)、王大仁(Alexander Wang)、瑞格布恩(Rag & Bone)、约瑟夫·奥图扎拉(Joseph Altuzarra)、翠西·瑞斯(Tracy Reese)、莫尼克·鲁里耶(Monique Lhuillier)、塔库恩(Thakoon)、克里斯蒂安·西里亚诺(Christian Siriano)、卡尔文·克莱因(Calvin Klein)、索菲·西奥雷(Sophie Theallet)、瑞德·克拉考夫(Reed Krakoff)、黛安·冯芙丝汀宝(Diane von Furstenberg)、林达克(Derek Lam)、普罗恩萨·施罗(Proenza Schouler)，以及爱丽丝&奥利维亚(Alice & Olivia)。还有Talbots。还有Target。还有安·泰勒(Ann Taylor)。啧啧。
Plus, of course: Gucci, Versace, Givenchy, Alaïa, Junya Watanabe, Christopher Kane, Roksanda, Moschino, Lanvin (those controversial expensive sneakers), Dries Van Noten, Alexander McQueen, Duro Olowu, Lanvin and Kenzo. To name a few.
当然还包括：古驰(Gucci)、范思哲(Versace)、纪梵希(Givenchy)、阿拉亚(Alaïa)、渡边淳弥(Junya Watanabe)、克里斯托弗·凯恩(Christopher Kane)、洛克山达(Roksanda)、莫斯基诺(Moschino)、浪凡（Lanvin，那双充满争议的昂贵帆布鞋）、德里斯·范·诺登(Dries Van Noten)、亚历山大·麦昆(Alexander McQueen)、杜罗·奥罗伍(Duro Olowu)、浪凡(Lanvin)和Kenzo。等等。
It is, by any measure, an unprecedented list.
The twin conditions of the historic nature of this presidency and the fact it occurred alongside the rise of social media, which turned every public second into a shareable, comment-worthy moment, combined to create a new reality where every appearance mattered. Not everyone listened to all of the speeches or read the analysis or considered the context. But everyone paused for a moment to assess the visual. And a couple who had spent their entire lives being scrutinized as pioneers understood what that meant, and instead of bridling at it, leveraged it. If you know everyone is going to see what you wear and judge it, then what you wear becomes fraught with meaning. Certainly Michelle Obama’s significance as a contemporary role model goes far beyond her image, but no one understood the role of fashion, and the potential uses of that, better than the first lady.
“She realized very early on that everything she did had ramifications,” said Thom Browne, who made the tailored coat and dress Michelle Obama wore for the inaugural parade in 2013, as well as a dress she wore to the 2012 Democratic National Convention and also during the final debate that year. And she understood, he went on, “that people did not just want to know how she looked, but what she was about,” and that she could plant subliminal cues to the latter with her clothes.
“她很早就意识到，自己做的每件事都会产生后果，”桑姆·布朗尼(Thom Browne)说。他为米歇尔·奥巴马定制了参加2013年就职游行时穿的外衣和连衣裙，以及参加2012年民主党全国大会(Democratic National Convention)和当年第一次辩论时穿的连衣裙。他还说，她知道，“人们不仅想知道她看起来怎么样，而且想知道她代表着什么，”后一个问题她可以通过服装来给出隐含的提示。
Change was the promise, and change was the look — far beyond the amount of upper arm on display, or the riot of color and prints. Or the cardigans.
But her real contribution went far beyond giving women a license to like clothes and use them to celebrate their own strength and femininity. Just as, despite the attention paid to the study on how much the first lady was worth to a brand — “I have been publishing for 25 years,” said David Yermack, author of the study and a professor of finance at the NYU Stern School of Business, “and nothing has compared to the interest in this” — it wasn’t ultimately about revenue generation. Indeed, despite Michelle Obama’s patronage, a number of labels she wore have struggled financially, including J. Crew; Maria Pinto, which closed; and Bibhu Mohapatra, which filed for bankruptcy last week.
但她真正的贡献远不只是让女性得到喜欢衣服的权利，用它们来歌颂自己的力量和女性气质。尽管关于第一夫人对一个品牌的价值的研究引发了人们的关注——“我已发表文章25年，”这项研究的作者、纽约大学斯特恩商学院(Stern School of Business)金融学教授戴维·耶麦克(David Yermack)说，“但没什么能比得上我对这项研究的兴趣”——但它终究不是关于盈利的。事实上，尽管得到了米歇尔·奥巴马的支持，她穿过的一些品牌依然在财务上艰难挣扎，包括J. Crew；已经倒闭的Maria Pinto；以及上周申请破产的Bibhu Mohapatra。
Rather, like first ladies from Jacqueline Kennedy to Nancy Reagan, Obama understood that fashion was a means to create an identity for an administration. But unlike any other first lady, instead of seeing it as part of a uniform to which she had to conform, with the attendant rules and strictures that implies, she saw it as a way to frame her own independence and points of difference, add to her portfolio and amplify her husband’s agenda.
相反，和杰奎琳·肯尼迪(Jacqueline Kennedy)、南希·里根(Nancy Reagan)等第一夫人一样，奥巴马知道服装是为一个政府创造身份的一种手段。但不像其他任何第一夫人，她不是把服装视为自己必须遵从的规矩，暗示着一个场合的规则和约束，而是把它视为展现自己的独立性和特点、履行自己的职责、阐释丈夫的愿景的方式。
“Our glorious diversity — our diversities of faiths and colors and creeds — that is not a threat to who we are; it makes us who we are,” she said during her final speech, and the proof was, literally, on her back. While most first ladies turned to a small number of trusted designers to help them create their look (Oleg Cassini with Kennedy; Adolfo and James Galanos with Reagan; Oscar de la Renta with Hillary Clinton and Laura Bush) Obama seemed to work with them all.
“我们精彩的多样性——我们在信仰、肤色和信条上的多样性——并不是对我们身份的威胁，而是我们身份的组成部分，”她在最后一次演讲中说。她的服装就是证明。虽然大部分第一夫人依靠少数信任的设计师帮助创造自己的造型（肯尼迪选的是奥莱格·卡西尼[Oleg Cassini]；里根选的是阿道夫和詹姆斯·加拉诺斯[Adolfo and James Galanos]；希拉里·克林顿[Hillary Clinton]和劳拉·布什[Laura Bush]选的是奥斯卡·德拉伦塔[Oscar de la Renta]），但奥巴马似乎和所有人合作。
But above all, her wardrobe was representative of the country her husband wanted to lead.
It was about the melting pot and the establishment; the 1 percent and the accessible. There was something in her closet for everyone, yet she was beholden to no designer — free of any specific allegiance to, or association with, a brand. She worked at a remove, through her aide Meredith Koop, and no designers contacted for this article said they knew when the clothes she bought would be worn (if they were for personal use she did buy them, though often at a discount; if they were for state occasions, they were donated by the designer and archived, either at the National Archives or a museum). They were not told in advance, and they found out at the same time everyone else did. It was a business relationship, not a personal one.
Will it continue? To a certain extent both Samantha Cameron, wife of former British Prime Minister David Cameron, and the Duchess of Cambridge have taken a page from Obama’s wardrobe book, swinging from high to low, working with a variety of London Fashion Week designers, and Sophie Grégoire Trudeau has done so in Canada. But according to Yermack, who looked into the market response to both the Duchess of Cambridge and Carla Bruni Sarkozy, when she was first lady of France, “they had nowhere near the same effect.”
这会继续下去吗？在一定程度上，前英国首相戴维·卡梅伦(David Cameron)的妻子萨曼莎·卡梅伦(Samantha Cameron)和剑桥公爵夫人(Duchess of Cambridge)都效仿奥巴马的服装选择方式，从高端到低端，与伦敦时装周的多位设计师合作，加拿大第一夫人索菲·格雷瓜尔·特鲁多(Sophie Grégoire Trudeau)也是如此。但是据耶麦克称——他曾研究过剑桥公爵夫人和前法国第一夫人卡拉·布吕尼-萨科齐(Carla Bruni-Sarkozy)的市场反应——“她们绝没有收到同样的效果。”
It may be because the point of what Obama wore was never simply that it was good to mix up your wardrobe among a group of designers, but rather that clothes were most resonant when they were an expression of commitment to an idea, or an ideal, that had resonance. And maybe it shouldn’t really matter if anyone else in her position adopts the same approach. Each administration writes its own catechism, after all. Whether we follow is up to us.