The role of the American first lady has always been a reflection of our country’s gender-normative values. The wives of presidents pick the plates and plan the dinners. They are America’s hostesses. Celebrated first ladies such as Jackie Kennedy, Lady Bird Johnson, Eleanor Roosevelt and Nancy Reagan were revered for exceeding those expectations, but none have quite redefined the role like Michelle Obama.
I could wax poetic about how much I love her/pray to her every night before I drift off to sleep, but my editor told me this should be under 400 words and I would like to reserve those for the most worthy of causes: my petition to remake the Statue of Liberty in Michelle’s likeness.
Here, exhibit A:
For the record: the OG Statue of Liberty was copper. Unconfirmed on whether the gown was also Atelier Versace.
Also: ARE. YOU. FUCKING. KIDDING. ME? Please sign your support in the comments.
Michelle’s decision to buck the tradition of stuffy first lady dressing — with increasing fervor over the course of her eight years in the White House — speaks to something far greater than the swankiness of the dresses themselves. Which sometimes make me cry on sight, but that’s my own problem.
Here’s how Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie put it in her letter to Michelle in the Times (which you should read in full, by the way, just prepare for your heart and stomach to switch places): “Eight years later, her blue dress was simpler but not as eager to be appropriate; its sheen, and her edgy hoop earrings, made clear that she was no longer auditioning.” And then: “She had become an American style icon. Her dresses and workouts. Her carriage and curves. Toned arms and long slender fingers…No public figure better embodies that mantra of full female selfhood: Wear what you like.”
The trajectory of Michelle’s state dinner looks narrates this better than I ever could, and the copper Versace dress last night was the most outstanding finale we could ask for. Click through above to see what she wore to all 13 and revel in who she is and what she’s been for this country. A beacon of grace, strength, charisma, grit and drop-dead fucking style.
I can’t wait to see what Bill wears.
Feature photo by NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images.