Oh, dear. It seems that First Lady Michelle Obama, always elegant, is coming in for some criticism for appearing at the White House Halloween party this Saturday wearing a £40 ASOS dress, which just-so-happens to bear a striking similarity to a $498 dress by Diane Von Furstenberg. And this is bad, of course, because, well, copying people’s designs is bad, and not something that should be supported, least of all by someone as influential as the First Lady. Or so the argument goes, anyway.
It’s complicated, this one. We kind of feel like Michelle can’t really win here. If she’d bought the DVF dress, that would’ve been wrong in the eyes of many, because spending $498 on ONE DRESS, especially in the current financial climate, isn’t exactly a great example for the first lady to be setting either, is it?
Then there’s the issue of the dress itself. While the ASOS dress has very obviously been inspired by the designer one, it’s not an exact copy, and it’s not claiming to be DVF: in other words, ASOS are doing what the high street has always done – taking inspiration from designers, and producing their own, much cheaper, versions of the runway styles. This kind of thing goes on all the time: it’s how the fashion world has always worked, and, given the sheer amount of clothing available these days, unless you’re a dedicated runway-watcher, and really know your Prada from your Primark, it can be pretty hard to know whether that dress you love is an original design or simply a COPY of an original design. It can also be hard to care, sometimes, too. We know that’s probably a controversial thing to say, but let’s face it: if you love fashion, but you can’t afford to drop $500 on a dress, you’re probably going to be fairly happy to find something similar for a fraction of the price, no?
Would Michelle Obama even have realised this dress was a “copy”? Possibly, possibly not. Taking into account her known love of bargain-hunting, we think it’s more likely that she saw it, liked it, and wore it, than that she saw the DVF dress and set out to find a copy. We also think that if someone were to go through our own closets, they’d probably be able to find items we’d bought without even realising they were “copies” of something else.
What do you think? Is Michelle Obama committing a crime of fashion here by wearing a dress that’s a reasonably close copy of a designer piece, or is she just doing what most of the rest of us do, by choosing the budget version of a particular style? Does the fact that she would presumably be able to afford the DVF dress (unlike those of us who buy “designer inspired” pieces because we can’t afford the originals) make a difference here, or is that outweighed by her responsibility to be seen to be fiscally responsible?