What’s Wrong and Right with Michelle Obama’s Custom Made Schiaparelli Dress for American Portrait Gala 2019
What You Can Learn from People’s Responses to it
Everytime somebody is wearing something, which is in 100% of in personal or visual social interactions – thank God, people have opinions about each other. As a matter of fact, they have about a dozen opinions based on their assumptions about each you. Most of them stem from what you are wearing and how you groom yourself. If they don’t know you or anything about you, what they see is ALL they base those 12 assumptions about you on.
From time to time I post a picture or two of a popular person on my social media (typically Facebook) to show an example of when sartorial matters go right and when they go south, so the attentive but still indecisive part my audience can get a free lesson, and at the same time, my paying clients can learn more.
Today I posted a very specific dress that caught my attention but not for the reason I would like it to. I asked people on the public forum to express their opinions. Most were to the point, some were politically correct, and at least one, for a good measure, was mildly-accusatory blaming me for inducing personal criticism and negativity. Nothing new then. To make things clear, I will reiterate the content of the original post:
“Please tell me what you think about this _custom_ made Lemon Yellow Schiaparelli dress with crystal beading Michelle Obama was wearing at the American Portrait Gala yesterday.”
You can see the original post and all the comments here: Karolina Chic Facebook post
Photo Credit: Michelle Obama’s Instagram
The following are the conclusions from the comments that will help you make better sartorial choices:
1. People do notice what we wear. Whether it’s good, bad, or plain ugly, they have opinions about our choices and, given a chance, they express them. People who dress well notice what we wear. People who say that they don’t care about other people’s clothes (or even their own) notice what we wear, too. So thinking that nobody pays attention to what you wear is just plain wrong.
2. Even people that don’t have a specific fashion education or a particular knowledge about personal style or the construction of garments clearly see when an outfit doesn’t fit well. While they may or may not know what exactly is wrong with the outfit, and even less of them may know how it could/should be fixed, they do know that a style is wrong when they see one. So thinking that people cannot recognize right / flattering outfit from the wrong one is naïve.
3. This is my favourite conclusion and the biggest lesson of them all:
People from ALL walks of life make wrong sartorial choices more or less often, regardless of their social status, financial status, the level of influence, popularity, sex, intelligence, body type, taste, or beauty. Sartorial ‘science’ is a separate discipline and a learnable skill that many choose to skip as superficial, vain, and unnecessary. Yet they have to put their clothes on every day and REPRESENT other people. So thinking that with money, status, popularity or influence one will automatically acquire impeccable personal style is not worth commenting on any further because 1+0 =1, not 2.
4. By the same token, no matter how famous or high end the fashion house is and how much people like the person the dress is made for, there is no guarantee that the match will be ideal. So thinking that selecting a certain brand to make you a (custom) dress will automatically or magically lead to style perfection is oversimplified.
5. When people genuinely like or idolize the person wearing the unflattering dress they have unhidden tendencies to
a) blame the person pointing at the fact that the dress may not be the best fit (in this case it was me even though the Emperor was not naked).
b) blame the society for putting a perfectly slim hourglass female figure on a pedestal as a female beauty ideal and being angry at the same time because most of women don’t have that figure at all.
Blame is typically not an ideal concept to work with in any context as it rarely leads to solutions. Rather, it creates more division than before.
Closing our eyes in front of the truth instead of confronting it, admitting it and, most of all, LEARNING from it will never lead to any progress. Pretending that out favourite people cannot make a wrong step no matter what is childish at best.
6. It always entertains me how eager people are to express their (negative) opinion on somebody else’s outfit. And in large amounts. Whenever I post anything like today, people hurry to comment.
When they get a free lesson a very few acknowledge it.
When I give them a paid option to learn, they sprint away in all directions with a speed of light. Women supporting women goes out of the window all of a sudden.
So what happens when you wear an ill-fitting dress?
No monument will crumble, no earthquake will occur, no genius will cease to exist if you or Michelle Obama wear an unflattering outfit. People just might temporarily feel underrepresented and wish that you had put more thought into your outfit selection or ask somebody more qualified. That’s all.
On the other hand, people remember. And this dress could have been THE dress IF the creator and the wearer had either the power or the will to say a simple word: ‘No. This doesn’t work for me/you. Let’s see how we can make it ultra flattering, since this dress was make specifically for me/you.’
Susan Tenney, one of my returning clients and a person whose opinion I value summed it up beautifully: “How we dress is POWERFUL. And we can learn so much by cultivating our discerning eye so that we can do it ever more skillfully.”
Well, Michel Obama’s peculiar sartorial choice taught us a lot this time.
Now, let’s talk about the dress itself and how it could’ve been the testament of elegance on this brilliant woman:
1. I am not a fan of an inside-out concept in any sartorial matter. I find it way too risky. In 99 % of the cases the bodice-based dresses backfire. They require a very slim very particular body type with a clearly defined waist and a proportioned breast size not to seem vulgar when overflowing or empty when the size is on the smaller side. This style is particularly unflattering to women with not clearly defined waist and a noticeable difference in the shoulder / breast size ratio. The latter seems to be the case for Michelle Obama.
2. Proportional imbalance.
Michelle Obama stomach area looks overemphasized. The shape of the dress on her body turned it into a column instead of a shapely form that she has. Her breasts seem somehow higher than the cups prepared to support them.
A slighty better version of bodice style dress for Michelle Obama.
Source: Oprah magazine
3. Even though Michelle Obama has a defined waist, this Schiaparelli dress hides it really well. The vertical bodice lines that would normally elongate Obama’s short torso only widen it. If this dress was indeed custom made for her, it failed miserably. I would not advertise this specific word for the brand sake, not hers.
This particular style suits Michelle Obama more than any other. It honours her waist and creates balance between her upper and lower body.
4. However brave choosing this dress may seem and as much as I am against “dressing your age” theory, the only type of people that qualify to wear this dress successfully and without risking various malfunctions and misfits are probably in their late teens / early twenties, have a more fragile skeleton and much smaller construction. Michelle Obama’s built needs stronger and simpler constructions that balances out her large scale.
Super chic Michelle Obama in this red Jason Wu gown the elongated her silhouette and creates balance between ther shoulders and upper body.
Source: Vanity Fair
5. It may surprise my followers who know how very particular I am about the colours for image (and branding) but the acidic / Bright Lemon Yellow is the least of my concerns for this specific look. While I don’t believe this colour would be equally flattering Michelle Obama on a portrait picture, it works in her favour when she needs to be noticed and immediately recognized in a crowd.
One of the best colours and outfits Michelle Obama blessed us with during her time in the White House was this heavenly Green Teal gown that flattered her immensely.
I am sure you have learned a lesson or two in this blogpost. Share it with your friends so you can shine together and separately.
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