Fashion Crime? Michelle Obama wears ASOS copy of DVF dress

Michelle Obama wears ASOS copy of DVF dress

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.

BUT.

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?

 

13 Comments

  • November 3, 2011

    wmd

    I think she may have liked the orange & black color combo in honor of Halloween. 🙂

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  • November 3, 2011

    Heidi

    We already know the first lady shops at Target for shampoo and the like. Shots are she wanted a relatively cheap and slightly gaudy/silly-while-tasteful orange and black dress and this certainly fit the bill.

    Okay, so my question is, as it often is, what makes the designer version special? Is it the first time gold and orange stripes have been put on a dress? The first time for diagonal stripes? The first time for a boat-necked 3/4-sleeved sheath? None of the above?

    Shots are the designer version fits better and is made of better stuff — but even that isn’t always the case. And is it 10 times better stuff? Doubtful.

    So, what’s different, if one purchases the DVF version, is the cache of having spent much too much on an uninspired dress. Ah, but it’s “designer.”

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    • November 3, 2011

      The Fashion Police

      IT’S DESIGNER! YOU OBVIOUSLY DON’T KNOW ANYTHING ABOUT FASHUN! lol!

      In all honesty, I do have a lot of sympathy with designers who are outright ripped off, mostly because I’ve had experience, in my own small way, of having my work copied, and it’s very frustrating to spend time creating something, and then see someone else profit from your hard work. But yes, there’s a big difference between outright copying and what typically happens when high street retailers produce their “take” on big trends. I don’t think designers can really afford to get to precious about it and be all, “Well, I’ve made a black and orange striped dress, so now no one else can make black and orange striped dresses because I invented it!” Actually, a lot of the time I think these kind of “inspired by” pieces may actually help the designer by drawing attention to their design, and in a way making it even more “covetable”. Just a theory, but I suspect there are a lot of people who wouldn’t even have heard of the designer item if it wasn’t for people pointing out the high street copies!

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  • November 3, 2011

    Roisin

    I think you’re right in that she probably can’t win either way, but personally I think any criticism of her for wearing a designer inspired piece is totally unwarranted. As a previous commenter said, there’s nothing to say that she was even aware of the existence of the DVF dress, far less that her Asos dress was inspired by it. I mean, she’s the First Lady – I’m sure she has more pressing things to do with her time than painstakingly research every piece of clothing she buys.

    Anyway, even if she DID know about the DVF dress, she might simply have preferred the Asos one, or like you’ve said – she might have decided that in this climate it was more sensible to go for the budget option.

    Additionally, I think there is a BIG difference in wearing something ‘designer inspired’ like this, and wearing an actual rip-off. She’s not carrying a Gucci handbag she bought out of the boot of someone’s car – she’s wearing a dress that was designed and manufactured legally and legitimately.

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    • November 3, 2011

      The Fashion Police

      As a previous commenter said, there’s nothing to say that she was even aware of the existence of the DVF dress, far less that her Asos dress was inspired by it. I mean, she’s the First Lady – I’m sure she has more pressing things to do with her time than painstakingly research every piece of clothing she buys.

      Yeah, I actually mentioned this in the post: I think you have to be really “into” fashion to always know whether something is inspired by something else. I AM into fashion, in that I spend all day, every day, writing about it, but there are times when I even I will see something I like be completely oblivious to the fact that it’s a “copy” of something else: there are just so many designers, and so many brands out there that it would be impossible to keep track of everything, even if it WAS your job. As you say, I’m sure the First Lady has other things to do!

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  • November 3, 2011

    Lyddiegal

    I think that just like the rest of us non-runway watcher shoppers, she bought the dress because it was a bargain and something fun to wear on Halloween, without giving the idea that it could have been a copy even a thought in the first place.

    And I think we should applaud her for being smart with her money – how much wear is she going to get out of an orange and black striped sheath dress anyway? It makes no sense to drop $500 bucks on it.

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  • November 3, 2011

    M

    I think….. that I have a hard time accepting people dropping hundreds or thousands of dollars on clothes (if you’re rich OR not-so-rich), so I applaud her for this.

    Also, with the whole “retail chains copy designer dresses” thing…. it’s not as if the majority of the people who buy the “inspired” version could even buy the expensive designer one if they wanted to (Michelle Obama excluded, of course), so that’s not exactly much money lost for them.

    This is way different than, say, a big chain ripping off ideas of independent artists or small businesses which happens ALL the time:

    http://www.mnn.com/lifestyle/natural-beauty-fashion/stories/forever-21-sued-for-ripping-off-indie-and-eco-designers

    those artists depend on their designs for their livelihoods, whereas something tells me ASOS making inspired copies of designers is more just a nuisance to them than actually harming their business (or, like you said, is possibly helping it by drawing attention to the original version).

    Plus, you’re right, a huge amount of people don’t even pay attention to designer clothes anyway because they’re just so out of the question budget-wise.

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  • November 3, 2011

    Marianne S.

    The First Lady wears designer fashion when the occasion is appropriate (Inauguration, State Dinners) and off-the-rack when the occasion is appropriate. It certainly isn’t her doing or ‘fault’ or what have you when something is inspired or copied from something else. I happen to love how she dresses and wish I could pull it off. Alas, I am short and do not have her fabulous arms. But I’m a big fan, so until she wears an actual potato sack, in my eyes, she can do no fashion wrong.

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  • November 3, 2011

    Natalie M

    I am going to agree with a poster here.

    Really, how much wear would she get out of a black and orange sheath dress?

    Not bragging on anything, but I probably could afford the dvf dress (giving up lattes for 3 weeks), but…why would I buy it if I am only going to wear it once?

    What a waste of money and perfectly good lattes.

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    • November 5, 2011

      Karen

      Wow… you spend a lot on lattes.

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  • November 4, 2011

    Natasha

    This is just fine. First of all, I agree with everybody else that she probably had no idea about the original DVF design. Secondly, even if she did know about it, is she in any way obliged to buy a similar, but 12 times more expensive dress? If there is a problem here it’s not Mrs Obama’s, and DVF should have solved it by suing ASOS. I quite like it that women like her and Kate Middleton are buying high street fashion.

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  • January 11, 2012

    paputsza

    It’s probably the first lady thing that effects my judgement, but I like the ASOS dress more. it doesn’t line up as well, but I prefer the shape of the skirt.

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