Michelle Obama Calls Out The Double Standards She Faced As First Lady

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In a public appearance on Tuesday, Michelle Obama revealed that her husband wore the same tuxedo jacket for eight years. The former president's aesthetic was and still is popular, especially because he seemed to effortlessly transition from state events requiring formal attire to his self-dubbed "mom jeans." But while he got away with wearing the same thing for two terms in the White House, Michelle pointed out that her wardrobe was constantly scrutinized, highlighting a double standard in how women are treated in the media's limelight.

“This is the unfair thing — you talk about Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers — no matter what we do, he puts on that same tux,” Michelle said at the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference in San Jose, California. “Now, people take pictures of the shoes I wear, the bracelets, the necklace. They didn’t comment that for eight years he wore the same tux, same shoes.”

While her husband was frequently lauded for pulling off a "cool dad" look, Michelle was under a lot of pressure when it came to her fashion choices — to the point where there were blogs chronicling every brand she wore, every look she donned. Michelle was intentional in her fashion choices, and she created genuine partnerships with different designers.

Despite becoming an influential fashion icon during her time as first lady, however, she could not escape a constant stream of criticism from conservatives who insisted that she showed too much skin, or that she did not look the part. A number of criticisms were leveled against her husband over the years, but this is the double standard that Michelle attempted to address on Tuesday: His clothes have never faced the same level of scrutiny.

It seems that while everyone was busy watching every fashion move Michelle made, they completely ignored the former president's choice to repeatedly wear the same tuxedo jacket and shoes. He could get away with being a notorious outfit repeater, but she certainly couldn't. She was expected to carefully and intentionally choose every single outfit she wore, and despite the fact that she excelled, critics still chose to lambast her whenever they believed she was slightly out of step with whatever they expected of her.

That Michelle would publicly address this double standard is important and significant because it is one that affects all women who have ever occupied public spaces. On the red carpet at the Oscars, for example, women are always asked who they're wearing and how long it took them to get ready, while men get more nuanced questions about the movies they've starred in and the challenges they've faced.

For Michelle, this double standard was particularly salient. As first lady, the country's eyes were on her at all times. As a black woman, the criticisms made against her were frequently steeped in racist and sexist undertones. As a prominent figure in the political sphere, it is appalling that her clothing choices got more press than her efforts to help marginalized communities. She did not need to be a fashion icon to earn the nation's respect, and her choice to call out the unreasonable expectations that she and other women face should serve as a reminder that women are not defined by what they wear.