Michelle Obama has recently spoken about the âunfairâ fashion standards in the White House. What did she mean?
Tania, by email
Oh, the Obamas. A family in the White House who were actually smart, classy, admirable, mature. One who inspired the best of humanity and made you feel like you were in safe hands â feels like something from another century now, doesnât it? Sorry, Iâm going to need a moment. OK! Iâm a pro, I can do this â just ignore me if I occasionally burst into sobs, theyâll pass.
So Michelle Obama was interviewed earlier this month and she spoke about the disparity between her and her husbandâs experience at red-carpet events: âNow, people take pictures of the shoes I wear, the bracelets, the necklace. They didnât comment that for eight years he wore the same tux and same shoes,â she said. âHe was proud of it, too! He was like: âMmm! Iâm ready. Iâm ready in 10 minutes, mm hmm. How long did it take you?â Iâm like: âGet outta here …ââ Can we all just admit that the Obamas are the ultimate #Relationshipgoals?
And of course, as always, Michelle is right. The overwhelming disparity between what is expected of women and men when they dress up for events is never more obvious than when it involves a woman whose previous professional success was never in any way dependent on their looks, as was the case with superstar lawyer Michelle Obama.
Defenders of this system â and, as a fashion columnist, I suppose I should be among them â will say this works in womenâs favour, as they get the fun of dressing up and can stand out more. Poor men, wearing the same boring suit all the time and not being judged by the worldâs press and able to wear comfortable shoes and not feeling all trussed up like a Barbie and, and, and â sorry, Iâve lost my train of thought. Why am I feeling sorry for men again?
We all know that women go through this because itâs another means of reducing, hobbling and infantalising them. You canât get much thinking done if youâre worried about how your dress will look on camera and your shoes are breaking your feet. Because as much as I love Barry Obama, I think he and I both know that if his wife hadnât had to spend about 60% of her time in the White House dealing with her hair and wardrobe, she could have run the country twice as well as him in half the time.
God, itâs hot. Whatâs the one thing to avoid, style-wise, in this heat?
Charlie, by email
Rub. Rub is enemy numero uno in the hot weather. Now, nobody wants to be the dick who complains about the bad weather in this country 10 months of the year, only to then immediately start griping about the good weather when the sun finally comes out. But it has to be said, the rub factor has been off the charts for the past two weeks. âWhat is âthe rub factorâ?â you ask, wiping the sweat away from your wide-eyed innocent expression. Ah, Iâm sorry. I forgot I wasnât talking to experts like myself who had been schooled in official fashion terminology at the Hubert de Givenchy College for Kids Who Canât Read Good. The rub factor measures how much your clothes are chafing against various parts of your body: your inner thighs, your groin and your armpits, most commonly. Yes, weâre really maintaining this columnâs reputation for aspirational glamour this week.
As I was saying, there has been serious rub in Britain of late, to no oneâs benefit. And the real problem with rub, aside from the physical discomfort and, in the case of ladies, having occasionally to unpick your clothes out of intimate crevices, is the smell. Nothing makes clothes smell worse than rub. It is a strange but undeniable fact that the sweat you build up from, say, exercise smells literally a tenth as bad as sweat from rub. Seriously, have you been on a train in the past week? Iâd rather spend a month breathing only the fragrance from the Wimbledon menâs changing room than spend two minutes on Londonâs District line at rush hour.
And how fast rub arises! It happens even faster than hairs can sprout on a ladyâs face: totally bare-faced at breakfast, full on whisker by dinner time (like I said, itâs all about aspirational glamour this week).
So what to do? Well, the most obvious is to wear loose clothing. It is an annual amazement how many people wear shirts and dresses that jam up tight into their pits. Have these people all had botox injections into their armpits to stop them from sweating, as someone totally unreliable once told me Sharon Stone had done? Or have they never lived through a summer before? Loose armholes, people: loose armholes are you best friends in the summer. And same with legs and crotches (truly one of the loveliest words in the English language). This is why I never understood how some people can find high-waisted and tight hotpants so sexy: sure, everyone can see the shape of your bum, but do you know how much those shorts must reek of grade-A rub? Get away from me, Daisy Duke, and sort out your personal hygiene.
Just get some slim-but-breathable shorts, slim-but-breathable T-shirts, a couple of loose dresses with low-cut armholes (this is where the peasant dress really comes into its own), and youâre set for a minimal-rub summer. Disregard my advice at your own peril, and please donât sit anywhere near me on the train.