The Sunday Arts & Style section of The Washington Post offered the paper’s pronouncements on "The Best and Worst of 2009." The most noteworthy list came on Fashion from Post fashion writer Robin Givhan. It might seem shocking that both Michelle Obama and her social secretary Desiree Rogers ended up on the Worst list. What’s more shocking is that they’re mentioned on the Best list, too – six times.
Before we get to those specifics, Givhan was crystal clear in her distaste for conservative beauty queen Carrie Prejean, putting her on the Worst list for what she said, not what she wore. Notice Givhan avoids using her actual name:
4. Miss California USA epitomizes all the reasons beauty queens should just stick to professing their support for world peace. When you stoop to calling Larry King inappropriate on his own show, you know it's time to just shut your trap.
Speaking of "stooping," Givhan didn’t seem to care that King was asking Prejean about personal sex videos she made as a teen for her boyfriend. It's hard to imagine Givhan giving King a pass if he suddenly started asking Michelle Obama to spill about her teenaged sexual adventures.
Here’s how Givhan took her friends Michelle and Desiree to task at the top of the Worst list:
1. Michelle Obama wears thigh-skimming, athletic shorts to visit the Grand Canyon while on vacation with her family. The image of her stepping off Air Force One dressed to rappel down a cliff was disrespectful to the title "first lady."
2. Desirée Rogers takes New York Fashion Week and the glossy magazines by storm, thus violating the golden rule of Washington staffers: Never upstage the boss.
What makes these items interesting is that Givhan didn’t trash these developments as severely at the time. You cannot find Givhan scolding Rogers for "upstaging" Michelle Obama. While she scolded the First Lady for dressing too casually back in August, Givhan also called her outfit "strikingly modern" and insisted "Obama, who joined the president and their two daughters for an excursion to the national park, looked like any other American tourist. Indeed, many sad-sack sightseers could take a few lessons from her style."
Then take a look at the tributes from the Best list by Givhan (bold is theirs, italics are mine):
1. The fall '09 Comme des Garcons collection is a poetic exploration of the beauty that can be found even in sorrow. White House social secretary Desirée Rogers wears a gown from this collection to the Obamas' first state dinner. Sure, it was a political miscalculation, but it was a bold fashion move worth applauding.
2. First lady Michelle Obama's strapless, silver-sequined state-dinner evening gown by Naeem Khan is pure razzle-dazzle and politically correct, too. The dinner celebrated India's prime minister; the dress's designer was born there.
3. Designer Isabel Toledo transforms from a fashion insider's secret weapon into a name for the history books, thanks to the lemon-grass yellow inauguration day dress and coat she created for the first lady.
4. J. Crew and its creative director, Jenna Lyons, show the world modestly priced fashion that's good enough for an audience with Queen Elizabeth II....
6. All eyes turn to Chicago fashion and retailer Ikram Goldman, the first lady's wardrobe adviser who keeps one eye on her client's personal style and the other on the history books. In your face, New York!...
8. The Council of Fashion Designers of America gives Michelle Obama a special award for turning the international spotlight on Seventh Avenue.
Givhan is quite clear with this list: Fashion is Michelle, and Michelle is Fashion. That, and Christian conservatism is forever out of fashion.