Pixel Tracker

Monday, December 10 , 2018, 1:48 am | Fair 51º


Susan Estrich: Michelle’s Purse

The first lady's sense of style shows us that looking great doesn't have to be outrageously expensive

Was that a $5,000 VBH alligator clutch that Michelle Obama was carrying in Italy? So the company bragged, absolutely certain it was theirs, until the White House responded that it was not the alligator but the patent, an $875 VBH clutch and not the more expensive model.

Susan Estrich
Susan Estrich

To be honest, I didn’t even know what VBH was until I saw the headlines about the $5,000 one the first lady wasn’t carrying. I love handbags as much as the next girl, but I could never get my head around the idea of spending that kind of money on something that is bound to end up with ink stains. But if Michelle wants to spend hers, more power to her. If she wants to wear $540 sneakers (Lanvin, a “cult” item that is bound to end up in one of my local resale stores), I say go for it.

She is not going to solve the recession by wearing Keds. She wears enough clothes from the Gap and J.Crew to make the point that looking great doesn’t have to be uber-expensive (although the things she manages to find at those places never seem to be there when I am), and that half the fun of fashion is figuring out how to copy high style for less.

What Michelle Obama projects, with her bright colors, body-conscious clothes and keen sense of style, is a woman at her best, looking great, feeling great, being great, full of life, celebrating her country and her family and, yes, herself. The White House was quick to say the bag didn’t cost $5,000, but it was still what my mother would have called a very, very good bag, and the first lady didn’t apologize for that. Why should she?

She’s not 22. She’s a grown woman who hasn’t faded to beige or placed herself in the background, who isn’t embarrassed that she doesn’t look 17, who (by all reports) doesn’t hate her hips or hide her rear or ask whether the dress makes her look fat before she lets herself like it.

If that isn’t a role model, what is?

The other day, I ran into a woman I know who has done very well professionally. I hadn’t seen her in awhile, and somehow I was taken aback. She looked the way she always had, only worse. I laugh when I see young women trying so (too) hard, because the truth is that when you’re young, it’s easy. The woman I ran into got to where she is, at least in part, by not getting trapped by the beauty thing.

On the other hand, she was long past the point where she needed to use or hide her sexuality. Now middle-aged, she has become one of those women that other women can’t look at for five minutes without wanting to do a makeover and wondering why she hasn’t. Is she really happy this way? More power to her, but I want younger women to know it doesn’t have to be that way.

Michelle is middle-aged, too. You can be powerful and beautiful. You can be passionate about politics and clutch bags; you can do your best for your country and look your best while you do. You deserve the sneakers — if not the Lanvin ones, then ones that make you feel just as good. And we should all ditch black for yellow. Especially in a recession.

Go Michelle.

— Best-selling author Susan Estrich is the Robert Kingsley Professor of Law and Political Science at the USC Law Center and was campaign manager for 1988 Democratic presidential nominee Michael Dukakis. Click here to contact her.

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made using a credit card, Apple Pay or Google Pay, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments and a mailing address for checks.

Thank you for your vital support.

Become a Noozhawk Supporter

First name
Last name
Select your monthly membership
Or choose an annual membership

Payment Information

Membership Subscription

You are enrolling in . Thank you for joining the Hawks Club.

Payment Method

Pay by Credit Card:

Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover
One click only, please!

Pay with Apple Pay or Google Pay:

Noozhawk partners with Stripe to provide secure invoicing and payments processing.
You may cancel your membership at any time by sending an email to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.