Jenice Armstrong: FLOTUS' recycling says more than just a dress

Her dress on election night in 2008, a Narcisco Rodriguez sheath with the distracting, red and black print, was roundly criticized.
Her dress on election night in 2008, a Narcisco Rodriguez sheath with the distracting, red and black print, was roundly criticized. (ASSOCIATED PRESS)
Posted: November 09, 2012

THE FIRST LADY of the United States walked onstage to celebrate her husband's re-election Tuesday night doing what for most of her predecessors would have been unthinkable - wearing a dress she'd been seen in before.

Michelle Obama has worn that understated burgundy Michael Kors silk chine pin-tucked dress not once but two other times. She was photographed in it at a 2010 Medal of Honor ceremony at the White House and again at a holiday party in 2009.

The fact that FLOTUS was willing to shop in her closet, as they say, for such a momentous occasion as her husband's historic re-election reflects her sensitivity to what's going on around the country.

Things have improved economically, but we're still hurting. Thousands of us are still without power and other basics in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. We all know people who are out of work or underemployed. A lot of workers have given up on finding jobs.

Yet, there's still an expectation that a first lady of the United States is supposed to dress like, well, a first lady. It's a tough balancing act, satisfying America's hunger for glamour and expectation for Jackie Kennedy - or Nancy Reagan - with the current economic climate.

Somehow Michelle managed to get it right Tuesday. There wasn't an ounce of triumph or how-you-like-me now in Obama's recycled dress, which was accented by a vintage brooch from the House of Lavande.

Obama topped her dress with a basic black sweater shrug that looked as if it could have come from Kohl's or some other affordable mall store where everyday, average working mothers shop. The overall effect was one of quiet, refined elegance.

"She said that she was so busy with the campaign and their kids that she had no time to think about an outfit and decided at the last minute," an Obama source told People magazine.

Tuesday's look was light years from election night 2008 when Obama wore that off-the-runway Narcisco Rodriguez sheath with the distracting and much-criticized red and black print.

From Obama's fashion choice Tuesday night, it was clear to me that she takes her job as first lady seriously, but not to the point that she has lost touch with what life is like for the rest of us.


Contact Jenice Armstrong at heyjen@phillynews.com or 215-854-2223. Follow her on Twitter @JeniceAmstrong. Read her blog at philly.com/HeyJen.

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