Michelle Obama hit the headlines this week with a pair of show-stopping boots paired with some whip smart analysis of personal style: “Fashion does have meaning.”
Obama was being interviewed on Wednesday by actress Sarah Jessica Parker, in the final stop of the book tour for her bestselling memoir Becoming, when she pulled out all the style stops in a pair of sparkling Balenciaga thigh boots that retail for almost $4,000.
In the wide-ranging conversation at New York’s Barclays Center, Obama discussed the significance of her sartorial choices in the White House, her role as a fashion influencer and why she chose to wear some designers and not others. “You learn there are people in this scene who feel entitled to these things because they’ve done it for a while,” Obama told Parker about her exchanges with designers. “And I sensed that feeling of, like, ‘Oh, you think this is just yours? There are a lot of people out here trying to make it; young people, women, black folks, and immigrants.’”
What she wore while first lady, Obama observed, often made as strong an impression as what she did or said, inspiring her to select the work of emerging designers, or regular middle-class brands, like J. Crew and Target. “I did know that my clothes were making a statement, I knew that was the case,” she said. “So we decided why don’t we use this platform to uplift some young new designers who normally wouldn’t get this kind of attention, because you can change their lives, which is one of the reasons why we chose Jason Wu for my inaugural gown.”
By contrast, current First Lady Melania Trump seems still to be traveling that learning curve, drawing criticism for selecting sky-high stilettos to visit hurricane-ravaged Texas, an “I don’t really care. Do U?” jacket on a trip to visit detained migrant children, and a colonial era pith helmet on a tour of Kenya.
Obama was lighthearted with Parker about the boots — “They were just really cute,” she said. “I was like, ‘Those some nice boots!’” — but it’s hard not to see them as a measure of the steep road she’s traveled from the south side of Chicago, as well as a celebration of the personal liberation she feels since leaving the White House.
“Now, I’m free to do whatever,” she told Parker.
Becoming has sold more than 3 million copies since its publication last month. Posting on Instagram after the New York event, Obama wrote: “When I think about all the people who have come out to our events over these past few weeks, I think about a little working-class kid named Michelle LaVaughn Robinson—an ordinary girl who had some tales to tell, some failures and some successes, too. She had a lot to learn, a lot to experience, a lot to give—more than she ever could have imagined.”
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That's a wrap! When I think about all the people who have come out to our events over these past few weeks, I think about a little working-class kid named Michelle LaVaughn Robinson—an ordinary girl who had some tales to tell, some failures and some successes, too. She had a lot to learn, a lot to experience, a lot to give—more than she ever could have imagined. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about my story lately, and what I keep coming back to is that no matter where we came from, we all share so much. People of all backgrounds, skin colors, and political persuasions can relate to feeling uncertain or overwhelmed. We’ve all been a little frustrated by the slow, frustrating growth necessary to get where we want to go. We’ve all struggled with the balancing act that can take over days, years, or decades of our lives. And I want us all to remember that these are the moments and lessons that make us who we are — every little twist and turn, every little bump and bruise, and ultimately every joys and every triumph, no matter how large or small. So I hope all of you believe in your story. I hope you recognize that what you see as a weakness might actually be a strength. I hope you recognize the power of your voice. And I hope you remind yourself that there isn't one right way to be an American. There isn’t one way to make your contribution in this country. So thank you all for your part of our story. Thank you for being who you are. And to everyone who’s read my memoir, or come to one of our events, or posted something online, thank you for being on this journey with me. Thank you for helping me continue to become. I hope my story can serve as a boost in your own process of becoming, too. I love you all. #IAmBecoming