Safra

There’s no bad press, when you wear that dress

In culture, designer, Fashion Heat, Good Look, Recap on December 4, 2009 at 2:10 am


I haven’t paid a lot of attention to the White House’s holdings; I’ve been a naughty girl – or at least so I thought, until I did closer inspection on the Desirée Rogers “scandal.”

Politics is an extensive, overwhelming topic. But when it’s somehow incorporated into fashion, as it was in this case, it drew my interest, so I thought I’d touch base.

Up until today, I didn’t even know who Desirée Rogers or Robin Givhan were. And I’m not ashamed of it because ultimately, when it comes to Obama affairs, they’re not (or at least not supposed to be) the center of attention, here. But both are getting partial flack over the first Obama state dinner in honor of Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh that took place on November 24. With Ms. Givhan as the supposed instigator, and Ms. Rogers as the faux pas at-large.

Ms. Rogers, the longtime compadre to the Obama clan, was hired as their Social Secretary at the White House. I admit, I consider that a fancy term for PR girl. With that being said, maybe it shouldn’t come as a surprise that she’s reveling in the laws of glamour, immaculately adorned in the latest fashions, and accepting feature requests from the world’s top fashion publications. Including the infamously lavish Wall Street Journal piece where she made her staple on building the “Obama brand” while deliberating over whether to wear an Oscar De La Renta gown for the photo spread. She’s merely doing her job right? Well, maybe. But I do believe when your job gets in the way of scruples, something’s got to give.

“[The dress] featured layers of sheer pink and creme fabric and loops of pearls, is from [Comme des Garcons’s] Fall 2009 collection.” Wrote Mrs.O.

Indeed, Ms. Rogers was stunning in that sheer nude Comme des Garcons dress she wore to the dinner. And I say that as someone half her age – sincerely. For a single mother at age 50, who obviously still has a vivacious zest for life, she glided in the risqué ensemble that bared transparent sleeves, looped in strands of pearls and white tulle outlining her silhouette. However, as much as I personally love all things avant-garde, especially fashion, if I were initiated into the White House camp, even I would willfully suppress my splendiferous tendencies – this isn’t funny business, you know.  Especially when it will inevitably lead to scrutiny amongst some of the most respected media (fashion or otherwise) in the arena.

Ms. Givhan, the Washington Post alum (Fashion Editor to be specific) wrote a hard-hitting article regarding that night. The smooth running and guest list for the dinner was left in Ms. Rogers’s care.  So how, were Michaele and Tareq Salahi, two relatively “unknowns,” able to get past security service without being invited is beyond the nation, even me.  The fact is that according to Ms. Givhan, Ms. Rogers, so wrapped-up in glamour-puss mode, didn’t properly delegate people in her office to closely monitor patrons at the front gates. “Social secretaries had always quashed their own public profiles, demurred from seeking the limelight, in service to their position and in deference to the first lady; [but] there was a new social sheriff in town and, for better or worse, she was one like no other.” Wrote Ms. Givhan in her article. On top of that, Ms. Rogers  sat at the dinner table as a bona fide guest rather than waiting on the sidelines as a staff member organizing an event should do.

“They (her friends) warned her of the ways of Washington, its desire for discretion, and urged to keep her profile low. In the nation’s capital, no one need know whether the social secretary wore Nina Ricci or Halston, just that she was appropriately clothed.” And now Ms. Givhan is looked at like some snooty nosed perpetuator. Especially because as soon as she saw Ms. Rogers on the press line she confirmed  by asking “Are you wearing Comme des Garcon?” in which Ms. Rogers replied “Of course.” Ms. Givhan obviously knows her stuff, but I guess to others she’s trying to tarnish Ms. Rogers’s reign because she may be just a bit more glamorous than herself. “You don’t wear something like that if you don’t want or mind a little attention. That single dress, I thought, said a lot about who Rogers is and how she sees herself.” Ms. Givhan rebutted on her blog.

At this point, with the myriad of coverage garnered, the twists and turns of plotlines and everything in between, I’m not sure who or what is to blame here. And the concept of party crashing is certainly not new. Maureen Dowd from NY Times reported that even President Obama “crashed Hillary’s high-hat party in 2008 and he crashed the snooty age-old Washington party of privileged white guys with a monopoly on power.” And I’m quite sure Ms. Rogers had hoped her high-profile parties (back when she was a Chi-town girl), would be crashed by high society people she forgot to invite too.

But I suppose that this story is much deeper than Ms. Rogers’s rapturous dress and the power-hungry couple that broke the gate of entry. The problem at hand is Mr. Obama and family’s protection and image conflicting with Ms. Rogers’s star-studded ego.

  1. …tarnish her “rain”…?
    A queen “reigns”, a cloud “rains”…JFTR

    Sounds like Rogers may need to get a larger, yet humbler perspective on her position and role – searchlight not limelight.

  2. It’s hard to believe that as a follower of fashion you have no idea who Robin Givhan is, or is it that she or Teri Agins and Constance White have not been on your fashion radar lately? Shame on you, as a fashion writer you should know all the true purveyors of style regardless of the package they come in. Anna Wintour is not the only woman who sits in the front row who has such a large influence on fashion.

    I love Desiree but maybe the White House needs to get back to the tradition of the Social Secretary for what they are known for, creating lavish events and out of sight. We don’t need anything happening to the President because of lax standards and regulations.

    • Oh absolutely, I agree. And by posting this article, many people like yourself can provide feedback and educate about these things.

      There’s a legion of people in my court. They don’t know, but unlike me, won’t admit it.

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