It’s been too long since a Conversant In Color post! I still have a few color concepts rattling around in my brain that won’t go away, so I thought I’d pick up the series by exploring the color choices of Michelle Obama, the First Lady of the United States. It’s nearly Election Day! I always found elections exciting times, even when I was a little kid. While I don’t live in the U.S., I am aware that this presidential campaign has been vitriolic. Please, let’s let that go for a little while and simply take a look at how the First Lady uses color.
Mrs Obama and I have radically different coloring, climate, and performance needs (when was the last time *I* had the Chinese Prime Minister to dinner?), but after much digging in Google Images I realized we have some similar ideas on color. For one, she doesn’t shy away from using color freely in her wardrobe. Naturally, she wears black and white and beige neutrals like anyone else, but for events ranging from state dinners and goodwill tours abroad to “mom-in-chief” moments and awareness campaigns, the First Lady turns to colors she knows she can rely on.
The more I looked, the more I saw that the First Lady works from a pretty tight color palette. She does occasionally deviate from her “colors,” but these variations just show the wisdom of her stock color choices:
The lesson here- if you’re going to stand out in a crowd, then own it. Here, the First Lady stands out for her height and skin color, two unchangeable physical attributes. She shines in this sapphire frock.
I gathered all these images to show the First Lady’s “go-to” color palette. When thinking about use of color in the wardrobe, it’s easy to think of clear divisions between “warm” and “cool” coloring. Mrs Obama’s palette does not easily fall into these categories- check out the way she wears both blue-purples and red-purples equally well.
However, it is important to note that all of the colors we’ve looked at share a common trait- they are clear and/or brilliant. I’m no expert on dressing darker skin, but to me it seems the more saturated colors work incredibly well with her depth of coloring. For the First Lady, the important factor in choosing color is not “warm” or “cool” as much as wearing colors as rich as her natural tones. She also looks very well in plain color or clear abstract patterns.
This is a good trick to remember regardless of your personal coloring- try matching the saturation of the colors you wear to your natural coloring. This may or may not suit your personality, but it’s likely you’ll discover new color-friends this way.
Gray is a great “invisibility” color for the First Lady. A quietly flattering blending-in color, like we talked about in the Separates post. We all need a little invisibility sometimes, right?
Out of many possibilities, I chose this dress to illustrate my point about the First Lady and her color choices. Each individual color on this dress may well work for her- worn separately. They’re perhaps a trifle bland for her, a little washed out. The print is not my taste to begin with, and I’m not sure it really does the First Lady any favors. Some have dubbed this the “slipcover dress,” but I think that’s rather rude of them. Even if it isn’t her best look. We can’t win them all!
First Lady Michelle Obama injects more glamor into the White House than it has seen since the days of Jackie Kennedy. She’s not a pampered socialite, she’s not a model, she’s not a young woman in years despite her athleticism and vigor. She’s a normal woman who does the best with what she has. I think that’s why I admire her so much- because she’s a woman who quite obviously does the very best she can with her life and the opportunities she has. This goes beyond clothes.
This is my current favorite First Lady dress, the one she wore to deliver a speech at the DNC last month. Some of her words have stuck in my mind since then-
If farmers and blacksmiths could win independence from an empire…if immigrants could leave behind everything they knew for a better life on our shores…if women could be dragged to jail for seeking the vote…if a generation could defeat a depression, and define greatness for all time…if a young preacher could lift us to the mountaintop with his righteous dream…and if proud Americans can be who they are and boldly stand at the altar with who they love then surely, surely we can give everyone in this country a fair chance at that great American Dream.
Because in the end, more than anything else, that is the story of this country – the story of unwavering hope grounded in unyielding struggle.
I know it’s easy to get caught up in all the noise and conflicting opinions surrounding the election, but I keep going back to that- we can vote, we have our nation and our rights because of the struggles of those who have come before us. This is no small thing. People died so we can have what we have- and what are we doing with our hard-won rights? It’s not just heros and legends who make our history, it’s the ordinary people the First Lady speaks of who looked around at their world and thought they could make it a better place.
We can make our world a better place.
At the risk of being bossy, please vote, Americans. It’s your choice who you vote for, not mine (I voted a few weeks ago), but vote because the simple act of exercising your rights validates those unyielding struggles of which the First Lady spoke.
What do you think? Saturated colors best on the First Lady? Which is your favorite dress? Did I leave one out you love? Which one? I have other Color concept posts, but it was fun to cyber-stalk the First Lady and tease out her color theories… Should I do someone else next? Who?