Friday, March 13, 2009
Fashion and Power
Fashion writer Robin Givhan has a special gift for identifying and interpreting the larger implications concerning what people wear. In addition to covering regular news in the fashion world for The Washington Post, Givhan distinguished herself by analyzing the ensembles of politicians and celebrities at public events. For example, her analysis of Condoleezza Rice's Commanding Clothes for an event about four years ago brought Givhan and the former secretary of state increased attention.
Recently, Givhan has written persuasively about Michelle Obama. Givhan's Baring Arms in The New Yorker notes the relationship between Obama's fashion choices and her growing power and influence. In particular, Givhan focuses on Obama's decisions to go sleeveless and show off her arms.
According to Givhan: "Obama’s athletic arms are achievable—in between the kids’ soccer practice, the executive suite, and the grocery store. Those arms represent personal time. They are evidence of a forty-five-year-old woman’s refusal to give up every free moment in service to husband, kids, and all the nagging distractions that could have filled her days and left her tuning in to 'Oprah,' trying to figure out how she’d lost herself along the way."
And notably, Givhan goes on to note that "The arms imply vanity and power: two things that make many women uncomfortable and yet are fundamental to self-confidence."