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.

Mrs. O wore a Tracy Reese custom sleeveless pink toile brocade dress with aqua trim and J. Crew everly suede pumps in rhubarb. She looked regal, dignified, feminine and polished.

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.

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  • Lynette

    Ya’ll are talking about Tracy Reese as though she is a struggling designer who’s desperate for exposure. Ms Resse and her lines are pretty successful.

    The First Lady looked fabulous last night!!

    • ?!?

      Yea. I was thinking the same thing. I’m no fashionista, but I know about Tracy Reese. She’s pretty successful.

    • jerzgyrl66

      you may have heard about her & a few others,but a majority of white folks haven’t,just Google a few articles o the big night or go to predominantly white websites & people are asking ” who is Tracy Reese” ?

  • omfg

    i just love that michelle is so modern.

  • sarah

    Tracy Reese is a very well known designer and makes beautiful dresses. But this just looks bad. Michelle consistently has bad taste. Not to mention she is not pretty at all. I could care less about politics but to wear that is just embarrassing. I am sure the stylists at Neimans could help her better than this!!! She definetly needs a new stylist or it is just her bad taste but get help lady it’s not working for you and your shoes do not match!!! Try some YSL shoes or something!! I can’t stand to see her outfits anymore.

  • Keke

    You’d be surprised how much things like cut, color and length are analyzed. As shallow as it may seem, advertisers, political advisers, and stylists are very aware of how an image can subconsciously translate tons of messages to an audience. There is an entire business predicated on making sure that a person’s shoes, clothes and hairstyle send the right “message.”

    Already I’ve seen tons of other articles that have been analyzing what Mitt Romney’s wife wore to the RNC, and many of them agreed that her nod to old world designers like De La Renta was in step with the message of keeping things traditional. Others were stating that FLOTUS was making herself accessible to Americans by wearing an outfit that was in an affordable range for most Americans. So I’m not surprised to see this on Clutch. It’s all over other sites so why not here?

  • mckay

    “So it is significant that Mrs. Obama chose to wear a dress by an American woman of color on a national stage” …..

    Isn’t it racist to choose someone because of one’s race, just as it is racist to exclude? Let’s not focus on color, unless it’s the color of the ensemble. Personally, I hope Mrs. Obama and her stylist chose the dress because it looked lovely rather than the ethnicity of the designer. We all must be judged on our actions and talent rather than the color of our skin, as a smart man once said. Amen to that!

    I loved the fabric and color of the dress. It read beautifully on tv. Classy and uplifting. Her shoes and nail polish pulled the outfit together fabulously. I thought the cut of the shoulders looked too much like a workout running top – too athletic for such an important night. The cap sleeves on the black and grey lace dress Mrs. Obama wore on the next evening was stunning. It was a much more flattering silhouette, and even though the color was a tad too somber for the event, it was a winner.

    The eggplant hued off the shoulder dress was my favorite as an all-around perfect dress for the occasion….color, cut, classy.