Which Mrs. is best suited for the Oval Office?

by Beacon Staff • October 29, 2008

Michelle Obama and Cindy McCain agree on fashion about as much as their husbands do on health care. From the way they do their hair, to the colors they choose, to the types of designers they wear, the two women are at opposite ends of the bureau-cratic continuum.

At the Democratic National Convention, Michelle Obama wore a turquoise dress, with elbow-length sleeves that ended a touch below her knees. It was cut just low enough to reveal a bit of collarbone, and the color complimented her skin tone. A flower shaped pendant-plucked right from her own jewelry box, according to CBS's Web site-was pinned at the V-neck of her dress. The outfit was soft and its calming color made her look warm and approachable, according to fashion blog redcarpet-fashionawards.com. Some critics from tampabay.com, a new Web site and blog said it was too bulky and conservative. However, when she stood behind the podium, her relaxed hair and simple elegant dress made her glow with congeniality.

When it comes to designers, Michelle Obama chooses her favorite local designers rather than big name ones. Her DNC dress, as well as many others she has been photographed in, is by Chicago-based designer Maria Pinto. Remarkably, as it could have been for Michelle Obama to go swipe-crazy with the campaign credit card, she stayed true to her favorite hometown favorites and kept it clean, classy and chic.

At the Republican National Convention, Cindy McCain went in a different direction. Where Michelle kept it simple and classic, Cindy pumped it up with a fashion-forward, detailed designer dress. She wore a structured gold Oscar de la Renta number that buttoned up to her neck with an adjoining high collar, reminiscent of women's attire in the 18th century. Photos of her on Web sites like Thehuffingpost.com reveal her love for bold citrus hues. This zesty look, combined with her tightly pulled back hair, seems severe even though she is commendable for fearlessly trying unconventional shapes and colors.

Junior Samantha Coulson, vice president of the Emerson College Fashion Society said many voters might see McCain's style as more fitting for a First Lady.

"McCain, who loves taking risks with bright colors and fashion-forward cuts, is loyal to her favorite couture designers," she said.

The length of the gold dress complimented her figure, landing just before her knees, and displayed her thin calves, but it covered her all the way up to the face. She looked like she struggled to breathe. The dress' gilded glamour overpowered her light hair and pale skin, giving her a pallid yellow tinge. Instead of saying, "Vote for my husband," this dress said something more like, "Let them eat cake ... and drink cheap beer."

McCain's dress got a lot of attention from the press because of its ostentacious price tag. Obama's green dress cost an estimated $900. McCain's entire outfit, however, cost more than most of us pay for our education. Between her dress ($3,000), Chanel watch ($4,500), diamond earrings ($280,000), pearl necklace ($11,000-$25,000) and designer shoes ($600), in September, Vanityfair.com estimated the total cost of her outfit was between $299,100 and $313,100.

Emerson Democrats member Aaron Bacon said he figured out where the difference in their style stems from.

"Michelle and Cindy both used fashion to help define their character and roll in the campaign, Michelle especially because of her early struggle to appear 'patriotic,'" she said.

This is perhaps why she has been photographed in local designs and stores. However, her style has nothing to do with the wearing of a flag pin, as the strong-minded and politically pushy lady of iThe View/i, Elisabeth Hasselbeck felt the need to point out at the McCain Rally in Tampa Bay, Fla. Michelle Obama does not need something as obvious as a flag to show American pride. She proves she's American by dressing like a common, middle-class American woman, and doing it with style.

"The American public might identify more with Michelle's simpler style, which is more appropriate for mothers of young children, and for women on a middle-class budget. On the other hand, many may see Cindy's style as more appropriate for America's potential First Lady," said the political communications major and copy editor of iThe Beacon/i said.

Obama's outfits seem effortless and style savvy.

"Her conservative dresses and hairstyles TV-tested by Oprah are reflective of her early struggle to gain approval as a public figure," Bacon said.

She is still often seen in what the masses are wearing, like the flawless yellow outfit she wore on iThe Tonight Show with Jay Leno/i; the sunny get-up was from JCrew, a store affordable even for college students. In one popular photo, Obama is wearing a sleeveless violet Pinto dress. Its rectangular shape breathes with a flattering '60s influence, and a belt at her waist compliments her hourglass figure. Do we dare say her style is reminiscent of Jackie Onassis. iThe Wall Street Journal/i seems to think so. Between her '60s curled -under hair and simple style, a "Jackie O look but in her own way" is developed, said Andre' Leon Talley, editor-at-large of Vogue, according to iThe Wall Street Journal/i.

Recently, on the morning talk show iThe View/i, Michelle Obama wore a black flower print dress that she bought for $148 at Black House White Market, a store found in almost every mall in America. Overnight, Black House White Market all but sold out of the dress in every store in the country according to msnbc.com.

"Michelle really epitomizes American style," said fashion guru and TV personality Tim Gunn in an interview with NYmag.com, "She's just an alluring woman."

If bold, bright, and structural style is your thing, or if you side with softer shapes and muted colors, you can learn a lot about what personal values they may hold through their appearance. The media recently condemned clothing criticisms as sexist. However, if this were so the ladies would be taking the stage in their husband's suits. Until that happens or the election is over, they will continue to walk America's political runway.