Wednesday, April 8, 2009

The Fashion Industry's Bout With "Miss Ann Syndrome"

By now, most of you have read Bridget Foley's article in WWD, where Oscar de la Renta channels his inner Christopher St. queen, and complains and chastizes First Lady Michelle Obama for not wearing American designers. Well, it seems that Mr. de la Renta just won't let it go:
...When informed that the First Lady had worked a few Europeans into her wardrobe of late — Alaïa, Moschino, Etro — Oscar de la Renta said at his bridal show Monday: “Our industry right now is having a very difficult time. I think it would be great if the First Lady dressed in American styles. There are a lot of talented people here too.” (Source: WWD)
Well, the last time I checked, Jason Wu, Tracy Reese, Isabel Toledo, Michael Kors, Thakoon, and Narcisco Rodriguez -- designers that Mrs. Obama wears -- ARE AMERICAN DESIGNERS.

So, let's put all the bs aside and be real: This has absolutely NOTHING to do with Mr. de la Renta's or the fashion writers like Ms. Fole's concern for the American fashion industry. This is a classic case of "Miss Ann Syndrome". Sistas, ya'll know what I'm talking about. I'm sure you've encountered sufferers of this ailment from time-to-time. These are the white folks, who suffer from delusions of grandeur and superiority, who think that Black women are mindless children who can't think for ourselves, and who need to be taught the "proper way" to behave. They're the ones who resent having to answer to Black people, feeling as though we should be subservient to them.

And that is exactly what is happening with the fashion industry's attempt to bully Michelle Obama into wearing the so-called "big guns of American fashion". It's about them not liking that a Black woman, from the Southside of Chicago, with a working class background, has the audacity to make her own sartorial decisions without first seeking the permission of the so-called "Ruling Class" AND being successful in her choices. They resent having to go to her in hopes that she'll choose them. They don't like that an unmistakeably Black woman has become the premiere fashion icon in the world. In their minds, fashion icons are supposed to be white, skinny and wealthy, and along comes Michelle LaVaughn Robinson Obama to break the beauty mold. The rants/comments by designers like Mr. de la Renta, Vera Wang, Donna Karan, and writers such as Ms. Foley in the WWD article and Cathy Horyn of the NY Times are Elitist-ese for "Who does she think she is?".

I'm not the only one who has noticed the elitist behavior of the fashion industry. Journalist and author, Gioia Dilberto wrote the following in an article for Huffington Post:
"The designers say that Michelle will help the struggling fashion industry if she spreads her sartorial self around. But it's hard not to read in their complaint a note of condescension. How can Michelle, who comes from a working class background and probably doesn't know the difference between silk ziberline and silk twill, dare to snub them?"
But this isn't the first time they have talked slick about FLOTUS. For several months now, I've noticed how articles have taken a certain tone towards Mrs. Obama, and her good friends Desirée Rogers and Valerie Jarrett. I wrote about such an article that appeared in Town & Country magazine. These articles come across as either "shock and awe" that Black women are fashionable and wear high-end designers, or they give "advice" on how these sistas should conduct themselves.

I suppose I shouldn't be surprised. Afterall, society has a history of portraying Black women as maids, mammies and concubines, and they're not used to sistas as the go-to example of elegance and grace. Well, they better get used to it, because Mrs. Obama ain't going nowhere!

UPDATE: Check out this awesome blog post by former model dmitcha on DailyKos. She breaks down the racism that exists in the fashion industry like a fraction, and calls out designers, like Vera Wang, for not casting models of color in their shows.

UPDATE II: Here's a couple of pics of Mrs. Obama wearing --- wait for it --- an Oscar de la Renta dress at the California Women's Conference in 2007. It's a houndstooth sheath from his Fall 2007 collection.

According to, she also wore a "Global-inspired print suit" from de la Renta's collection.

And look what Oscar told WWD prior to his rant.....
"Mrs Obama is certainly stylish and very good looking," de la Renta has told WWD. "It will be great for any American designer to dress her." (Source:

Like I said: "Miss Ann Syndrome".

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