Stick to tradition or move on?

I have mixed feelings about this picture*:
It is an absolutely stunning portrait of Michelle Obama. On the other hand, it is a high-fashion, posed image of the First Lady of the United States. Michelle has great style (most of the time). There is no precedence saying that America’s first ladies cannot express their personal styles and one or two have been trend setters. For some reason, though, I feel uneasy about the first lady posing for high fashion like this while in her public position and then releasing the photograph. It’s obvious the feelings that are purposely being portrayed: style, power, grace, sophistication. No one holds their hand on their thigh like that naturally, though. It’s provocative – where is she? (looks almost like a bathroom or a hallway) what is she getting ready to do? (hike up the dress to adjust her stockings? Very probable if she’s in a bathroom). Who stands like that in a gown?

Can anyone help me put my feelings into words? I don’t want to be stuck with tradition (thinking First Ladies don’t pose like this) if there’s no reason a First Lady shouldn’t pose like this (and release it to the public), but aren’t I right to feel a little uneasy looking at this?

*I found the picture of Facebook without any credit to its owner/the photographer.

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5 thoughts on “Stick to tradition or move on?

  1. Amanda says:

    Interesting take. I don’t find it provocative at all… it feels to me like she’s taking a break at a ball or something… The first lady role is an difficult one, I imagine, especially when you’re trying to balance being yourself, having some fun here and there, and maintaining a public image. It’s not a job, per se, but there are definite expectations for the role and eyes on you all the time.

  2. I feel the same way about presidents appearing on talk shows, etc. She does look very confident and in control in this photo, though, which I think gives her more power than a regular model. This is a tough one. Very thought-provoking take on this.

  3. Uneasy? I don’t get it. Does it make her seem dangerous to you? Is she being too … fierce? Fabulous? Sexy?
    There are reams of photos of this first lady doing all the traditional things related to her position – I don’t see how this or any fashion photo undermines her position as First Lady in any way. She’s become a “fashion icon”, not unlike Jackie Kennedy. The difference being that she is a black woman – and that the style of what is considered “beautiful” “elegant” etc. has changed since the 50’s/60’s. Strength and self possession are traits that are “in” – timidity is “out”. This photo shows strength and self possession. And because she is also beautiful and on the young side – it makes no secret of the fact that she has a sexual life too. In this day and age – surely that is not ‘shocking’ or inappropriate – even for a first lady.
    And are you sure she’s “standing”? Not that standing or sitting is necessarily provocative – but It doesn’t look like she’s standing in this shot. It looks like she’s sitting with her legs crossed turning to the side with her hand on her hip – yes, in a “pose-y – high fashion-y” way – but I assume she’s following directions from the photographer – rather than deciding how to pose herself.
    Most first ladies are not beautiful enough to be given this sort of photo shoot for a high fashion magazine. (assuming that’s what this is – though I could find no record of this photo on the Internet thus far – so like you – don’t know where it came from) – since it was just “on Facebook” – with no clue of origin. Did the person who posted it like it or not – where did they get it and what did they say about it? Does that have any bearing on your reaction?

    • Woah, Killer, hold on a minute. Politics and race have nothing to do with the picture or my feelings about it. The FB post was positive and so am I about her beauty. Maybe I’m just more conservative (read, traditional) in the way I think world dignitaries would/should act. I asked in my post if I needed to change my way of thinking. You’ve provided interesting commentary that I’ll take to heart and truly consider.

  4. Cindy Ash says:

    Vicki, I was just directed to your site via an online blogging class — it’s beautiful! (I’m a SAHM in California, but hail from NoVa, your cherry blossom post made me SO homesick). I was especially struck by this post so I Googled it and here is the link I uncovered:

    http://www.vogue.com/voguepedia/Michelle_Obama

    I totally get where you’re coming from, and the picture would be more questionable if it were more current, but given that the article focuses on what everyone was saying about her in January 2009 about how beautifully and accessibly she dressed, it was appropriate for the venue.

    I’m not sure I’m totally at ease with it, although having it in context helps a lot. The pose, which is very fashiony, kind of emphasizes Michelle Obama’s versatility: she is beauty and brains, wife, mother, and executive. She is involved with her kids and has enough personality to be photographed by Annie Leibowitz.

    In any case, I’m glad I’ve found you and look forward to following your blog from here out. Thanks!!

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