When Michelle Obama mentioned she was wearing a $148 Donna Ricco dress on“The View” recently, the style quickly sold out. In other media appearances she’s said she’s a fan of J.Crew, and the company’s shares have since risen eleven percent. At the Democratic National Convention, Obama accessorized with a floral brooch by Erickson Beamon, and in February the line launched at Target. Along the campaign trail, she sported an array of juicy colors; the next thing you know, vibrant shades dominate Fall Fashion Week.
You can see Mrs. Obama’s style influence across the country. Her penchant for sheaths by Chicago designer Maria Pinto has put windy-city fashion on the map. Following her appearance in a printed Thakoon dress, there’s been high demand for the designer at the premiere Seattle store, Mario’s.Washington, D.C., designer Kai Milla is even launching an “Inaugural Collection” with the First Lady as her muse. And a recent headline in The Kansas City Star read: “Michelle Obama Inspires Sleeveless Trend.” Which all leads to the question: Are West Villagers following suit?
It would seem we are not, in fact, like Kansas City. Gina Smith, owner of the edgy West 10th Street boutique Forest laughed out loud when asked if the First Lady’s fashion choices carried over into her store. “Her style isn’t relevant to my customer,” said Smith, who favors whimsical prints and vintage-inspired pieces with often daring cuts. She’s soon debuting a line “based on pot and alcohol.”
Merchandise at the Darling boutique on Horatio Street and 8th Avenue, owned by a former Broadway costume designer, might be slightly more reminiscent of the president’s wife. But the abundance of bright dresses in greens and yellows is “just a coincidence,” according to a sales associate. Over at Zachary’s Smile on Greenwich Avenue, store clerk Molly Schulman used the word “subconscious” to describe the decision to dress the current window mannequins in very Obama-esque outfits: one in a seafoam boatneck shirt and navy pencil skirt, another in a pale yellow sheath.
Arleen Bowman, of the eponymous Bleecker Street boutique, which she’s owned for 21 years, attributes her longevity to staying away from all trends—even one generated by a woman she admires as much as Obama. Not to mention, Bowman’s older clientele, ranging between 45 and 65 years of age, “don’t want to show their arms,” no matter who else is doing it.
Clothes and accessories aside, Mrs. Obama “sets an example that women really need right now,” said Darcy Miro of a new jewelry shop on Bedford Street. Miro uses found objects to craft one-of-a-kind works of wearable art—her cuffs, rings, and neckpieces evoke a sense of history, but are thoroughly modern at the same time. Miro said she finds inspiration not in public figures, but rather the people in the neighborhood: “They’re independent, yet there’s a strong feeling of community among them.” If Miro and other West Village store owners aren’t following the First Lady’s fashion lead, their connection to her is still clear.