First Lady Michelle Obama is shrugging off criticism from one of the biggest names in U.S. fashion, Oscar de la Renta, who questioned why she wore a dress by a British designer at the state dinner honoring Chinese President Hu Jintao.
After Mrs. Obama appeared in a red floral Alexander McQueen gown at the Jan. 19 state dinner
, De la Renta told Womens Wear Daily
, "My understanding, is that the visit was to promote American-Chinese trade -- American products in China and Chinese products in America. Why do you wear European clothes?"
He added, "Some people did not get the point. It's not [intended] to be negative. Do you think Kate Middleton is going to be married in Marc Jacobs? Or you'd see Carla Bruni dressing in American clothes? This is a big industry in this country. Mrs. Obama does look great. She should take that and do something. She could do a great good for our industry. We need to create jobs here, create jobs on Seventh Avenue, too."
During an interview for ABC's "Good Morning America
," broadcast Friday, co-host Robin Roberts asked Mrs. Obama about De la Renta's remarks.
"Women, wear what you love. That's all I can say. That's my motto. It's nice to have on a nice suit, but it's a lot nicer to change a generation in terms of their health. It's a lot...better use of my time to focus on rallying this country around our military families," Mrs. Obama said.
"I mean, there's so much that I hope to do in this role that makes a difference in people's lives."
Mrs. Obama brushed aside the criticism from De la Renta as if the focus on what she wore was fluff. But she loves clothes, sets a fashion agenda, and can create a market demand with what she wears. She has a "widespread reputation as one of the most stylish women ever to inhabit the White House," writes Kate Betts in "Everyday Icon, Michelle Obama and the Power of Style," to be published next month.
In Mrs. Obama's last big public appearance, last Tuesday's "State of the Union," she wore a dress by U.S. designer Rachel Roy.
FOOTNOTE: Buying U.S. goods is a policy initiative pushed by her husband's administration. Just last month the Transportation Department launched a "Buy America" website. A component of President Obama's signature economic stimulus legislation -- the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 -- calls for purchasing U.S. products with stimulus funds.