1. (Christianity / Eastern Church (Greek & Russian Orthodox)) a representation of Christ, the Virgin Mary, or a saint, esp one painted in oil on a wooden panel, depicted in a traditional Byzantine style and venerated in the Eastern Church
2. an image, picture, representation, etc.
3. a symbol resembling or analogous to the thing it represents
4. a person regarded as a sex symbol or as a symbol of a belief or cultural
5. (Electronics & Computer Science / Computer Science) a pictorial representation of a facility available on a computer system, that enables the facility to be activated by means of a screen cursor rather than by a textual instruction [from Latin, from Greek eikōn image, from eikenai to be like]
After reading the definition of the word, I will concede that, yes, Michelle Obama is an "icon". She is a symbol of a belief and a cultural movement. I can agree to that. Without getting into politics, this administration is self proclaimed "hope" and "change", and all those affiliated with it, represent this belief and this movement. Okay. Now let's get to the point. This book isn't about Michelle Obama as an "icon" representing the movement and beliefs of her husband's administration. This book is about her fashion. So I looked up the definition of "fashion icon":
fashion icon n
a person or thing that is very well known as being highly fashionable
Now I know why I had such a strong reaction to this book..... Let me preface this next argument, I don't think Michelle Obama wants to be a fashion icon. I think the media is trying to make her into one. And I think it's annoying. I bet she finds it a bit annoying especially when she doing all sorts of other relevant work.
So I started to research the book a bit and found this book excerpt from The Today Show. If you have time read it, and let me know your thoughts. I think it's a stretch at best. The book's author explains that American women have spent their lives sacrificing fashion and style because they are subscribing to "the false idea that style and substance are mutually exclusive". Seriously? And it took Michelle Obama wearing J.Crew to help this generation of American women realize that they can be both fashionable and gasp smart?!?!?
Another excerpt I found amusing:
"As the generation led by the new First Lady consolidates and extends the gains of its predecessors, American women still wrestle with the question of appearance. We worry whether paying attention to what we wear will automatically entitle people to disregard what we say or do. We wonder whether the wrong outfit will violate some cultural no-fly zone."
Alright. I do not wrestle with my appearance or what being well dressed says about me. I know what it says. It says that I have enough self respect to want to look nice every time I leave my house. It says I have enough respect for my boss and co-workers to look nice and well put together when I come to work. It most importantly says that I take myself, my position in life, my job, and whatever it is I am verbally saying to another person very seriously, so I put in some effort to convey that with my appearance. I am not worried that people will pay attention to my appearance, I'm worried they won't! I am fully confident that I can pay attention to what I wear and not be disregarded by others. I actually think people are capable of taking me seriously while I look like I care about what I'm wearing! Mind blowing, I know....
This author is really reaching for some relevance to a book that is just plain unnecessary. One reason it's unnecessary is that Michelle Obama has only been First lady half a term! Maybe we should see what else she wears? I could also write a thesis on why she isn't really very fashionable at all, and why she is certainly no fashion icon. She is not blazing a trail in the fashion world. I'll admit that is a matter of personal taste and opinion. She may be another girl's epitome of fashion genius (I doubt that, but it's possible), she just isn't mine. I think though, I can say with some authority that Mrs. Obama is not "using her self-possessed style to set the tone and to define a new etiquette of power." She just isn't. I don't care how many books and articles are written on the topic, it does not make something false true.
***UPDATED TO ADD***
After reading some comments, I'd like to add that I really tried to keep my personal politics out of this post. I'm sorry if it came across that I don't think Michelle Obama is a fashion icon because I'm not a Democrat. I completely agree that good style is in the eye of the beholder. This is just my opinion. My main point is that I think this book is a real stretch because I don't feel like this particular woman is redefining how American women dress and view fashion in their lives.