Fashion watch: Will we the people ever be spared!


Robin Givhan, on the scene: The analysts groaned when they clicked to the Washington Post’s web site this morning.

Quickly, their groans turned into wails. Robin Givhan was being featured by the Post on-line!

Gack! On the Post’s front page, the featured article bore this headline: “Obama’s speech heralds a bolder leadership style.” In the piece, Dan Balz offers his views on yesterday’s address.

So far, so OK! But right next to the Balz analysis piece, this was the other featured piece—and it appeared with a large color photo. Headline:

“How the first lady is redefining style.” The author was Robin Givhan.

Will we the people ever escape the tyranny of Givhan? The Post has been pimping her fashion reports for a great many years now. This morning, there she was again—and good God!

She opened like this:
GIVHAN (1/22/13): First lady Michelle Obama stood on the steps of the U.S. Capitol during President Obama’s second-term swearing-in, holding the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s black leather Bible in her magenta-gloved hands.
As absolutists on Dr. King, we find that prose borderline obscene. You may be more forgiving—but eventually, the analysts wailed and threw dirt into the air:
GIVHAN: [F]or the evening’s two inaugural balls, she chose a patriotic red chiffon and velvet gown that highlighted her shoulders with its spare neckline. It was created by Jason Wu, the same young New York-based designer she catapulted from near anonymity into a household name when he crafted her first inaugural gown.

It was a stately choice, thanks to its classic first lady hue. But it had sophisticated sex appeal and was a far cry from the idealistic sweetness exuded by Wu’s first gown, the ivory, embroidered dress now in the National Museum of American History.

In four years, her style had shifted from fizzy hope to glimmering grown-up pragmatism.

During the day, her clothes echoed her husband’s. The Thom Browne coat was created from tie silk and echoed his discreet blue neckwear. As expected, the president wore a sober black overcoat, dark suit and black gloves, with a tiny American flag pin dotting his lapel. Their daughters, Sasha and Malia, finished the family portrait wearing coats in shades of lilac and violet. The elegant silhouettes underscored their new maturity.

Still, the first lady’s clothes stand apart. Observers obsess about Michelle Obama’s wardrobe because it offers clues to the personality of a public woman—a historic woman—who remains a resolutely private person. In an era of televised confessionals, she has never laid herself bare. But thankfully, her clothes, with their quirks and eccentric embellishments, do not adhere to unwritten protocol or dowdy traditions that have so often left first ladies little more than beige cyphers.
Actually, it’s the Washington Post which “obsesses about Michelle Obama’s wardrobe.” It does so because we live in deeply fatuous times.

Givhan may be an outstanding fashion reporter; we have no view about that. The problem begins when the Post turns her loose to offer her thoughts on the various meanings of politicians’ clothing. Mercifully, her piece appears on page A28 of this morning’s hard-copy Post.

But on-line, somebody knew what to do. They placed this utterly silly bilge at the top of the Post’s front page.

Can that possibly be where we the people want it? The analysts are still in recovery from the shock they experienced early this morning.


  1. No doubt Givhan would look great in a pink chiffon straightjacket and pearls.

  2. Can that possibly be where we the people want it? Unfortunately,that's exactly where we the people want it. Go check out the online front pages of the NY Daily News and NY Post admittedly not the same as sometime. It's a race to the bottom. Each day grosser than the day before. They must be like that for a reason.

    1. Pardon the bad grammar, meant to say not the same as Post or Times.

  3. I have to agree with the other Anonymous. The fashion coverage is what people want. [And to be honest, as a committed Michelle Obama fan, I would have clicked on that link.] You're right, though, that the Post's (and the Times' and other papers') editors exhibit poor news judgment in pushing such stuff upfront. It wouldn't seem quite as bad, though, if their hard news and analysis stories offered more compensating depth.

  4. Sometimes I find Robin Givhan's reporting odious, but I was one of the people looking for all the inaugural fashion articles and photos. Yes, I do want to know who designed Michelle Obama's coat! Also Jill Biden's coat, which I thought was hideous. I was not a fan of Jill Biden's Vera Wang ballgown, either.

    What I don't like is when fashion writers use their platform to demean women or the way they look in some outfit. I didn't see any of this in the latest batch of reporting.

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