Should The First Lady Dress For Fashion Or For Country?

Tonight’s State of the Union address is an important event for politics, journalism, policy and media minders around the country and across the globe. But what the fashion industry seems to be concerned about is the message first lady Michelle Obama‘s outfit tonight will send — and whether it will, or even should, send a message at all.

This, of course, is a response to the red and black Alexander McQueen dress Obama wore at the state dinner for Chinese President Hu Jintao last week. While many bloggers and writers were thrilled to comb a complex mixture of signals about America’s stance on China’s policies regarding regarding copyright protection and workers rights from the the folds of its silk, others were ecstatic that she wore McQueen, a label that rarely, if ever, comes close to Pennsylvania Avenue.

But others criticized the first lady for not wearing an American designer, and Oscar de la Renta was among the loudest — or at least the widest heard. De la Renta’s comment to WWD that Obama should have promoted an American brand was picked up around the blogosphere, including here on Styleite. The designer says he was misunderstood:

“This is an important issue,” de la Renta elaborated on Friday, the day WWD’s item ran. “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.”

Even WWD‘s editor Bridget Foley had a few choice words regarding the first lady’s choice of designer:

To wear something other than American at this particular trade-centric mega-fete embarrasses a major U.S. industry that continues to need all the help it can get.

Job creation and the development of American industry, no doubt, will be among the main focuses of President Obama‘s address to the nation tonight. Will it also be a theme of what the first lady puts on her back, or should she have the freedom, like any other American woman, to wear exactly what looks and feels best to her?

Michelle Obama, Oscar de la Renta and a Pretty British Dress [WWD (Subscription Required)]

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