Michelle Obama Wears Vintage: a 1950s Norman Norell

17 Dec

{Michelle Obama Wears Vintage: a 1950s Norman Norell} Yes, the fashion industry is all a “twitter” and they are literally tweeting and chattering all over the Web regarding the First Lady’s choice of dress for the “Christmas in Washington” concert, airing this evening. But let’s set the record straight, shall we?

These run a-muck media musings go like this: “… wearing a thrift-store dress,” wrote The New York Post; “This elegant hand-me-down …” said The Long Island Press; “wearing a second-hand dress” reported the UK’s Telegraph.

Granted, this could very well be the first time a First Lady in the United States has worn a vintage ensemble for a public event, however, this is not a second-dress, nor did Michelle Obama or her security detail trapse into a thrift store.

The reportedly $2,500 dress was purchased at New York Vintage, a “vintage boutique” which specializes in high-end vintage apparel. Now, as for the 1950s black-lace overlay dress, with a square neckline and a full tea-length tulle style skirt, this is classified as “vintage couture.”

This term means a highly valuable vintage piece, often dead stock (still with original tags, never worn and/or sold), and designed by an era’s influencing style icon. In the case of the First Lady’s dress, it was created by the late Norman Norell, an American designer who died in 1972.

Despite my grumblings over the media hype misrepresenting, or simply being ignorant of the context, I am thrilled Michelle Obama has taken this fashion-forward step. And, according to The Huffington Post, it looks like it could be the first of several vintage looks to come from the White House.

“Other dresses from our archive have been scheduled for use by the First Lady later this year,” Jon Schneck, co-owner of New York Vintage, told The Huffington Post.

Naturally, this signals an important shift to economical and sustainable fashion choices and perhaps, the industry will begin to tailor its designs in more “green” ways. Yet, with the trend-setting impact that Mrs. Obama seems to have — in the past, her outfits often lead to long lines and waiting lists at retailers and department stores — I am wondering what it will do to the vintage market.

Will it make vintage pieces scarce to find? Will it make the prices sky-rocket? Or, will it spark a revival of more feminine and timeless silouhettes strutting down the runways? The latter, I certainly welcome with open arms …

But, I’d love to know what you think of her dress and the effect it might have … And, you can catch the pre-recorded “Christmas in Washington,” hosted by Ellen DeGeneres and featuring Mariah Carey, Annie Lennox and Miranda Cosgrove, airs tonight at 8 on TNT.

The contest to win a $40 gift certificate to Manhattan’s Arts Echo — home of amazing vintage — is soon ending! If you have not entered yet — what are you waiting for?!? Just click here, and give your feedback about the site, then leave your Guesstimate!


5 Responses to “Michelle Obama Wears Vintage: a 1950s Norman Norell”

  1. amanda December 17, 2010 at 6:36 PM #

    hi! i saw this via twitter, someone i follow retweeted you 🙂 and i love that you’re talking about this. because loads of famous women wear vintage couture, that’s not a novelty. why is the press making such a big deal about this? the dress was still $2500! i mean, if she waltzed into a goodwill or salvation army, then i could understand the hooplah. as it is, she’s still wearing a designer dress that she bought from a boutique. and it’s still unattainable for most of us regular folk.


  2. Dawn O'The Atoms December 18, 2010 at 8:23 AM #

    Does everybody mean Norman NORRELL? Lord have mercy, could this generation at least get the man’s name right??



    • Thrifty Vintage Chic December 18, 2010 at 9:00 AM #

      Ms. Dawn O’The Atoms: OH JEEPERS!! I am so remiss — I thought something looked off — yet, EVERY media outlet has published his name with an “i” so I thought I was wrong! I am remiss for not following my gut and double-checking. Thanks for calling this to my attention.

      I’ve now updated the article, using the correct spelling of Norman Norell.


  3. Dawn O'The Atoms December 19, 2010 at 2:11 PM #


    Robin, thanks for the correction. Thought you would enjoy the above article. Best, Dawn-O


  4. Makaga December 24, 2010 at 12:57 PM #

    Glad to see that she brought a name and dress out of our country’s recent fashion “archives.” And the more classic silhouette is great on her.


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