Friday, September 14, 2012

In a 'tough world,' there's still food and fashion

Egyptian anti-Muslim film protester dodges tear gas, Voice of America photo
Today's Friday, the day of prayer for Muslims, as well as their riots against America. The disgusting YouTube video by a low-life criminal in Cerritos, California isn't the real impetus for the frightening and dangerous manifestations in Tunisia, Sudan, Indonesia, India, Pakistan, Lebanon, Malaysia and even Germany. Deeper hatred fuels the anger that would eradicate every power and faith that isn't Muslim. (And as the world has seen, branches of Islam can be equally violent against those in differing sects.)

President Obama won't need to launch an "October surprise" to boost his leadership profile; he's placed in that position presently and so far has yet to impress.  We hope and pray that the coming days will bring strong denunciation of the violence rather than placating apologies for offense. Ours is a land with freedom to speak, even if the content insults another. The world stage is not so generous.

Meanwhile, my daughter who lives in New York City can no longer purchase a 16-ounce soft drink, lest her petite frame become obese. Mayor Bloomberg proudly touted his city's restriction on large-sized sugary drinks as "“the single biggest step any city has ever taken to curb obesity,” adding, "we believe that it will help save lives.”

I'm all for saving lives, and if Mayor Bloomberg can show that unlimited refills in smaller-sized cups, enforced by a cadre of health inspectors, will either reduce obesity or keep citizens going, I'm willing to toast him with my, um, Venti Frappuccino (373 calories). I don't get many of them, but when I do, it's because I'm really thirsty and probably didn't have breakfast. The Starbucks frappuccino, by the way, is in controversy since drinks with more than 50% milk are exempt from the ban. If the ice-to-milk ratio is dropped, my venti could be safe. Sound silly to you?

If not, perhaps this news item will. A New York Times "Front Row" column in the Style section a week ago discussed the virtues of Michelle Obama's sparkly dress as a prop with a message for her address to the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte. Eric Wilson approved of the Tracy Reese design, noting that Ms. Reese "who happens to be black," designed a creation that "from a distance...had a shimmering effect...but in closeups, viewers could practically study the pattern of the gold brocade."

The message of the dress: A boost to the middle class. Why? "Ms. Reese's prices are also in the middle ground...which fits perfectly with the Democratic pitch for the middle class." Middle ground, ie, middle class dress prices for pieces by Ms. Reese run $200-500. The zinger at the end of the article was the single sentence, "Mrs. Romney's dress cost $1,990."

OK, Mrs. Romney wore a readily-available Oscar de la Renta red taffeta belted dress for her boffo speech to Republican conventioners (from the pre-fall collection). Ms. Obama's dress, one-of-a-kind and designed specifically for the first lady, is not available. Of course, it's being rushed into production, and according to reports will sell for "less than $500."

Now, no middle class woman I know--and certainly not I--would pay $500 for a dress. Nor $400. Nor $300, or $200 or, I will admit, in my own case even $100.  Middle class women shop at Nordstrom Rack or Target, and like bargains more than labels.  At least that's true for everyone in my sphere. If they do wear a label--maybe on a pair of good denim jeans--they want to get it on sale. I often wear hand-me-ups from my daughters from Forever 21.

I sometimes wonder: who are the women who buy from designer shops? There must be enough of them to support the fashion industry, but if they're not the wealthiest 1%, they're definitely in the richest 5%. You don't need to buy a $500 replica of Michelle Obama's dress to announce you're in the middle class.  And you don't need to diss Ann Romney for her (expensive) choice.

My take-away message: Democrats want to demonize success. Rather than cheering those who achieve, and making way for more to follow, the tack is to channel last year's Occupiers and chastise the Romneys for making it to the top.

The suggestion that wearing a custom-made dress from a mid-priced designer shows some fidelity to the middle class is here just another rap from the very biased press.


  1. My contention about the dress hubbub is that, as a seamstress (and entrepreneur) I need more women willing to pay $5k for dresses, not fewer. Attacking Mrs. Romney or Mrs. Obama for their beautiful and expensive choices certainly doesn't help me, when I regularly spend 100 plus hours creating a custom gown. If I charge a dressmaking fee of $1000, those who are paying attention will quickly deduce I get a whopping $10/hour. Note that my fee doesn't include materials. If the political wives had worn $90 gowns they would have been attacked for supporting sweatshops in the third world and unwillingness to pay seamstresses a "living wage"

  2. Aprons, you make a great point: People (like you) who put in the work deserve to be fairly paid. And the people who can afford more expensive designs should be praised for investing in our economy rather than insulted for being rich. Similarly, those of us who are frugal in one area, like fashion, may be generous in others. The Romneys, who can afford it, happen to give a huge amount of charity. Most Americans aspire to do well, and suggesting that those who make it are somehow selfish when they spend their money seems a real contradiction.