Friday, April 3, 2009
I swore that I wouldn't get caught up in the Michelle Obama fashion hagiography that's currently inflaming the British dress press, but she's gone and done something provocative . . . a red cape aflutter . . . in this case the fabric is emblazoned with an Argyle pattern.
In her much-hailed talk at a London school, Obama wore a sweater bearing the familiar pattern of diamonds criss-crossed with diagonal lines. Americans associate this with classic East Coast prepdom but, like most things WASP, the pattern dates to the Olde Worlde, not strictly Anglo-Saxon but Celtic.
The origins of the Argyle pattern, according to the excellent summary on Squidoo, saw the burly-calfed members of the Campbell clan of the Argyle region of northern Scotland cutting apart their tartan and using it as foot coverings. (If you've ever been anywhere near Scotland in any month of the year except middays in July you'll understand this impulse exactly.) Eventually, socks came to be knit in a similar pattern. As the centuries passed, golfers fresh from tramping through the Scottish rough disseminated the Argyle diamonds on on a wider scale; the president of Brooks Brothers adopted it as a fitting motif for the tribals of Wall Street, and currently, England's newly revivified Pringle is doing its damndest to make Argyle look cool.
On Michelle, it seems less cool than a nod to the poor girls across the land who must wear patterns like this (or even blander) on a day-in-day-out basis as part of the mandatory public school uniform. Kind of an "ich bin eine British Schoolgirl" move. Yes, the speech was great. But she's communicating brilliantly with her clothing as well . . .