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 email@example.com or 215-854-2223. Follow her on Twitter @JeniceAmstrong. Read her blog at philly.com/HeyJen.