First Lady Dresses Appropriately, Still Offends

by Mollie Wells

Photo courtesy of The Washington Post

From buff arms to bare legs, Michelle Obama’s extremities (or, rather, the outfits that show them off) have got to be the most demonized in White House history. In an editorial today about Mrs. Obama’s decision to wear unfussy, mid-thigh shorts on a Grand Canyon hike, The Washington Post‘s Robin Givhan argued that while the first lady shouldn’t be expected to wear tulle and lace on a family vacay, she should be careful of ‘[trying] so hard to be average that she winds up looking common.’

Sidestepping that the word ‘common’ drips with all sorts of pretentious venom, let’s consider what we’re talking about here. This wasn’t a White House event. It wasn’t a dinner, a fundraiser, a business meeting or even a minor social gathering–it was a vigorous jaunt through the hot-as-hell Arizona summer. For Michelle Obama to look any more pulled together than she did (and by the way, she looked cute, comfy and entirely appropriate for the day) would be to fool both herself and American women into thinking that it’s possible, or even expected, to look perfect while, you know, exercising.

Look, I’m not so idealist as to say clothes don’t matter–they absolutely do, especially when you live on the most public of stages–but can we please drop the sartorial concerns when they relate to an active afternoon with the fam? The first lady didn’t show up to lunch in flip-flops; she put on a pair of shorts presumably to avoid passing out in a canyon. Relax.

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