With the Golden Globes here and the Oscars right around the corner, Hollywood’s Red Carpet season is looming large in the minds of fashionable female celebrities. Add to that the DC Inaugural Balls and local inauguration parties all over the country and the fashion stakes are high at all levels of American society. Everyone from movie stars to politicians to politician’s wives is fretting about what to wear, how to look spectacular, and, most importantly, how NOT to look like anyone else.
Nothing is more embarrassing than being seen in the same dress at an event – or worse, being seen in a dress that someone else was already photographed wearing. Remember the scandal caused when Reese Witherspoon showed up at the 2006 Golden Globes wearing the exact same adorable Chanel dress that Kirsten Dunst had worn to the Golden Globes 3 years earlier? Reese’s publicist had trusted Chanel’s claim that the dress was â€œvintageâ€, but clearly someone was asleep at the wheel. Movie stars, of course, are much too busy to think about these things and so must trust the hopefully capable hands of their publicists and stylists.
In America, fashionable female politicians and political wives must make their wardrobe choices very carefully. They cannot appear to be elitist by only wearing couture, American or otherwise. Neither can they be taken seriously by being too democratic and wearing something akin to a uniform for an officer in Mao’s army. American political types tend to rely heavily on Oscar de la Renta, Carolina Herrera, and Bill Blass for their special event dressing needs. Unfortunately, even our First Lady is not immune to the embarrassment of showing up to an event wearing the same dress as not only one other guest but 3 other guests. Mrs. Bush was obliged to change her dress at the 2006 Kennedy Center Honors event because not one but three other women were wearing the exact same $8,500 Oscar de la Renta evening ensemble.
Our First Lady elect, Michelle Obama, seems to be off to a great start. Whether you liked the dress or not, she wore Narciso Rodriguez on election night and had the good sense to have the dress customized. Her dress had solid straps rather than the sheer ones seen on the runway – not that you could tell because of the cardigan she added – for better or worse – to complete her look. Regardless, the dress, in any form, had not been previously worn publicly or photographed on anyone but the runway model. We’re all waiting with baited breath to see who wins the competition to dress her for the inaugural balls. America’s First Lady should have her pick of the best that American designers have to offer. We can only hope that she will follow in the impeccably shod footsteps of France’s First Lady Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, her fellow 2008 inductee to the International Best Dressed List. Granted, Ms. Bruni-Sarkozy has access to the very best that French couture has to offer, but let’s hope it prompts American designers to step up their game in dressing Mrs. Obama.
On the other hand, there is something to be said for repeating outfits. Our very own Anna Wintour – lately rumored in fashion circles to be under consideration for the position of Ambassador Exemplary and Plenipotentiary to the Court of St. James, i.e., the United Kingdom or Britain – is well known to repeat outfits, although almost always with different accessories, and yet maintains her reputation for impeccable taste. This past summer, she was seen wearing the same Carolina Herrera floral shift at three different events. She did however follow the maxim of not repeating an outfit in the same country, the fashion corollary of the rule that cheating on your boyfriend in another country doesn’t count. Ms. Wintour appeared in this dress in the space of a few weeks to the Salvatore Ferragamo fashion show in Milan, then to the Royal Box at Wimbledon to watch Roger Federer play, and, finally, to the Chanel fashion show during Paris fashion week.
Repeating a dress but not an entire look is definitely an art and one that perhaps Mrs. Obama will emulate. Remember ladies, being fashionable is serious business and a lot of work. Always do your best to ensure that no one – not even you – shows up looking exactly like you. Adding your own sense of style to even the most limited fashion resources will help ensure that.
1. Kirsten Dunst and Reese Witherspoon in the same Chanel dress. The Superficial: Getty Images
2. Three guests and Laura Bush at the 2006 Kennedy Center Honors event wearing the exact same $8,500 Oscar de la Renta evening ensemble. CBS Early Show
3. Michelle Obama in Narciso Rodriguez on election night. Getty Images: Telegraph.co.uk
4. Runway Model in Narciso Rodriguez Spring RTW ’09 NYmag.com
5. Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, 2008 International Best Dressed List Vanity Fair
6. Anna Wintour wearing the same Carolina Herrera floral shift at three different events. Getty Images: Telegraph.co.uk
Image Layout: Allison Merzel