April 3rd, 2009
09:52 PM ET
12 years ago

Oscar de la Renta has tough words for Michelle Obama

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/04/03/art.michelle.gi.jpg caption=" Oscar de la Renta thinks Michelle Obama should not have worn a sweater to Buckingham Palace."](CNN) - Michelle Obama's fashion choices at the G20 summit have drawn widespread praise, but at least one famous designer thinks the fist lady made a major faux pas in her wardrobe choice for a private audience with Queen Elizabeth II.

"You don't...go to Buckingham Palace in a sweater," Oscar de la Renta told Woman's Wear Daily regarding Mrs. Obama's decision to wear a cardigan over an Isabel Toledo-designed dress for the private meeting.

De la Renta also said the first lady - who often sports relatively affordable American brands - should broaden her wardrobe and seize an opportunity to spur the flailing fashion industry.

“American fashion right now is struggling,” he said. “I think I understand what [Obama and her advisers] are doing, but I don’t think that is the right message at this particular point."

"I don’t object to the fact that Mrs. Obama is wearing J. Crew to whatever because the diversity of America is what makes this country great. But there are a lot of great designers out there. I think it’s wrong to go in one direction only," he added.

But J. Crew is likely hoping the first lady doesn't change her style any time soon. When Mrs. Obama was photographed wearing a $300 J. Crew "crystal constellation" cardigan from the mid-market retailer Tuesday, the item sold out on the company's Web site only hours later.

A spokesman for J. Crew said the item has also  sold out in nearly all the company’s stores as well.

Filed under: Michelle Obama
soundoff (302 Responses)
  1. Jason

    Just quickly browsing Mr. de la Renta's website I see dresses for $4800.00, and blouse's for $1200. I really don't think at a time like this the First Lady should have to take it upon herself to push clothing that 90% of Americans can't afford. There is a bigger world out there with more important things right now than the health of the high fashion industry. Let's stick with affordable clothes for now and worry about getting people jobs, and better wages so maybe they can afford Mr de la Renta's clothes in the future.

    April 3, 2009 11:03 pm at 11:03 pm |
  2. mes

    Honestly, the thing about Michelle Obama, who the hell cares! There's so many other things of importance: the world & u.s. economy, global warming, animal abuse, Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, & Korea that I don't know why any of the "news" networks would cover Mrs. Obama. Its not only not news, its not important. Are we so insecure that we need to cover people other than the president & his policies which affect all of us. The Obama children & certainly not Mrs. Obama are really not newsworthy.

    April 3, 2009 11:03 pm at 11:03 pm |
  3. Linda

    De la Renta should loosen his knickers and relax. When I went to Buckingham Palace I wore a pair of shorts, a t-shirt and cheap canvas sneakers. It isn't the clothes that are important, it's the person wearing them!

    April 3, 2009 11:04 pm at 11:04 pm |
  4. sosdreaming@ejourney.com

    Who cares what "Oscar" thinks!

    Michelle you looked just lovely.......a wonderful role model for young ladies all over the world.

    April 3, 2009 11:04 pm at 11:04 pm |
  5. wellsaid

    you know...the queen isn't wearing anything too hot herself. are you just jealous she wasn't wearing one of your designs? geez...who cares what a designer thinks anyway?

    April 3, 2009 11:05 pm at 11:05 pm |
  6. AZ bookworm

    I am not sure that this criticism of Michelle Obama is really warranted. She is a confident, intelligent, strong woman and as such she is setting her own style.

    So I find it a bit demeaning to hear statements pertaining to her supposedly following solely her advisers' input for that. Besides that what is wrong with promoting American brands and retailers like J. Crew right now? Just because she does not generally favor haute couture designers, does not make her any less fashionable. She has great poise and taste but I doubt she's trying to be a Jackie Kennedy type of first lady. She is down to earth and she doesn't feel that as an educated, professional woman with executive experience she has anything to prove. Her choice in clothing is appropriate and reflects a good understanding of and alignment with our country's current economic affairs.

    April 3, 2009 11:06 pm at 11:06 pm |
  7. Ben

    This barely qualifies as news. Anyway, I wouldn't mind seeing the fashion industry go away. It has definitely done more harm than good, particularly to women. How many cases of eating disorders do you think the fashion industry is responsible for?

    April 3, 2009 11:06 pm at 11:06 pm |
  8. John

    I have to disagree. For the average American, it is so refreshing to see the First Lady dress in clothes that are not out of reach of the average American. Maybe the fashion industry needs to follow her lead!!

    Well done Mrs. Obama!!

    April 3, 2009 11:07 pm at 11:07 pm |
  9. Kim

    Her clothing was appropriate and tasteful. I love the fact that she buys off the rack at places like J Crew-as do lots and lots of American women! Perhaps Mr. De La Renta is a bit jealous. Give it up, Oscar. The days of Nancy Reagan are over.

    April 3, 2009 11:07 pm at 11:07 pm |
  10. LMC

    The vast majority of Americans do not wear Oscar de la Renta designs or other "high fashion" designer wear. It's nice to have someone the rest of us can identify with. Mrs. Obama is not on the red carpet for the Academy Awards! If she was, I would hope she wouldn't alter her style! Would de la Renta like to comment on what the Queen wore?

    April 3, 2009 11:08 pm at 11:08 pm |
  11. Carolyn L Lindgren

    Yea! Oscar! I agree. What is all this talk about how great Ms OBama dresses when she throws a cardigan over everything she wears! This is not a high school class meeting! Please!

    April 3, 2009 11:10 pm at 11:10 pm |
  12. Dave T

    If only the queen herself weren't already such a fashion faux pas! Does she ever appear in public without that matronly purse? And in her own home? Why does she need to carry around a purse in her own home?

    April 3, 2009 11:10 pm at 11:10 pm |
  13. lynn

    I love the audacity of our First Lady's attire. I think she always looks amazing and fresh.

    Perhaps Mr. de la Renta would have preferred she wear the Carol Burnett Drapes? =:0

    April 3, 2009 11:11 pm at 11:11 pm |
  14. Tracy

    I think she looked fine. It was a cardigan, but matched her outfit perfectly. It wasn't just any old sweater.

    April 3, 2009 11:14 pm at 11:14 pm |
  15. Jasmine in Germany

    De la Renta is correct. There is no argument. The First Lady should have worn long sleeves for her meeting with the Queen. (there are historical reasons for this, I have a negative opinion of Michelle's fashion advisor for this faux pas). I like Michelle, I'm on her side, but she still has a bit to learn. Michelle still flunks "Public Speaking 101" (sets a poor example for graduates of an Ivy-league School) with all those "umms" as "fillers" while she speaks (it was quite bad during during the campaign, but she as improved no doubt through the assistance of consultants).

    I think that Mrs. Obama is making an impact on fashion in the way that she intends to.; to a mass audience, amd I am aware that related media concerns are still operating in the way which they have been for many years. It shows that they are not listening to Michelle's husband well enough.

    April 3, 2009 11:14 pm at 11:14 pm |
  16. Patty

    There are far more important issues at hand than whether or not Michelle Obama should have been wearing a sweater to meet the Queen. Get real, Oscar. In this economy middle America can't afford to wear designer clothing. Sounds to me like you are just another elitist who just doesn't get it . . .

    April 3, 2009 11:17 pm at 11:17 pm |
  17. Lori

    Her outfit looks okay to me and considering the economy why waste money on over priced clothing.

    April 3, 2009 11:17 pm at 11:17 pm |
  18. eric

    I think Mrs. Obama is doing the RIGHT thing by not wearing top designers. With so many Americans suffering in these economic times, it would be irratating to many to see pricey outfits on America's First Lady.

    April 3, 2009 11:19 pm at 11:19 pm |
  19. MsOD

    I agree with DeLa Renta. Sometimes Mrs. Obama is too casual and she doesn't always have to look so mid-market. She is the face of Ameriucan women abroad and unfortunately, the unchic, dowdy strereotype is still there for Americans. For meeting heads of state and dignitaries, she should be less casual. Nor does she need to restrict herself to American brands–for example, Louis Vuitton is designed by an American and fashion is a global industry. She doesn't have to go Marie Antoinette on us, but some higher end pieces are really needed- her wardrobe is too timid and safe.

    April 3, 2009 11:19 pm at 11:19 pm |
  20. Dan Brock

    I think the critics are correct. Michelle Obama's fashion statement is a disgrace. I think that it is only right that you exile her to our country (Canada) to be our first lady. Since you're sending Michelle here, would you mind asking the president if he'd come along, too? Dan

    April 3, 2009 11:19 pm at 11:19 pm |
  21. Teresa Evans

    Who cares what Oscar de la Renta thinks? Michele Obama wears what she can afford, and what she likes. I get so tired of these designers, who by the way, the average L
    "Main Street" American can't afford to even try on their designs,so please Oscar- save your breath. Michelle Obama will never act like something she is not. Michele is a down-to-earth woman unconcerned with "labels". Its her choice to wear whatever she wants, as often as she wants. Michele couldn't care less who's name is on the label, and I am so glad!!! Congrats J Crew!

    April 3, 2009 11:21 pm at 11:21 pm |
  22. Jackie McGrady

    In reference to Mrs. Obama. Oscar de la Ranta said the things he said because he wants Mrs Obama to pay thousands for his one of a kind clothes.

    Times are hard, also because Mrs. Obama is The First Lady and a person of color, no matter what she wears she will be criticize. She is her own person, please, let her be her own person.

    I did not hear anyone criticize the last first lady. Was it because she had no style? The world is in a turmoll, lets find some thing else to talk about not what some one says because he is not making any money.

    April 3, 2009 11:24 pm at 11:24 pm |
  23. Ky

    Most Americans don't really care what Mrs. Obama is wearing. Her attire has very little to do with what's relevant in this country. After reading this news article only one word came to mind. Can anyone say shallow? Come on people, our First Lady deserves better.

    April 3, 2009 11:26 pm at 11:26 pm |
  24. Laura

    Her outfit sure seemed to work with the Queen, which after all was the primary purpose.

    If Oscar can't compete with other designers, he should retire. He's just trying to shame Michelle Obama into buying his clothes. How unprofessional.

    Michelle's doing an extraordinary job! Lay off, Oscar et al.

    April 3, 2009 11:31 pm at 11:31 pm |
  25. patsy

    Oscar de la Renta has been around too long. Not wear a sweater in front of the queen? Respect isn't found in a wardrobe, but in the person wearing it. Michelle Obama shows respect to everyone she meets. She could be wearing a bathrobe and she would still be personable and charming.

    April 3, 2009 11:32 pm at 11:32 pm |
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