We are gainfully aware of how much money the retail industry brings in. We know how images in fashion, whether negative or positive, are instrumental in shaping our identity and the way the world see us. And yet, it’s hard to move beyond the mindset that fashion is inherently superficial.
That narrative reared its ugly head last night when the world watched the powerful and poignant delivery of Michelle Obama’s Democratic National Convention address, which she reportedly wrote herself in a month’s time. The speech managed to be personal and heartfelt while still addressing important issues like healthcare reform, women’s rights, equality in the workforce, financial aid and more.
Most people were wrapped up in the passionate and emotive way Mrs. O delivered her speech. They praised her ability to differentiate the Obama administration’s policies from that of Mitt Romney’s without naming or personally attacking him, and appreciated how sincere and genuine she sounded. But there were some of us who also lauded her look.
It wasn’t long, on social media at least, before people began to remark that it was superficial and shallow to even discuss her outfit during such a landmark speech.
No one is saying her dress should overshadow the issues she addressed last night. But her look and choice of designer is important. Fashion is a booming industry but the designers at the top of the food chain are overwhelming white. Many argue that the business institutionally shuts out young designers and designers of color, as evidenced by the many documented financial struggles these designers have experienced often despite a wealth of talent. So it is significant that Mrs. Obama chose to wear a dress by an American woman of color on a national stage. If this translates into business for Tracy Reese, it will help her continue toward great success in an industry where many designers are sinking, filing for bankruptcy or being shut out of their own labels.
Furthermore, we’d be lying if we said that fashion isn’t an important part of one’s image. A sleeveless dress with a flattering and refined silhouette says that Mrs. O is a modern, sophisticated and confident woman. Before she even opened her mouth to speak those powerful words, she had made a statement through her look about the kind of woman she is. There’s nothing shallow about that.