What's With the To-Do Over Michelle Obama's Add-On J.Crew Belt?

Every single piece of Michelle Obama’s extensive inauguration weekend wardrobe has been thoroughly scrutinized, but there's one item in particular that's gotten everyone extra fired up: The J. Crew Valentina belt the First Lady added over her Thom Browne coat.
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Every single piece of Michelle Obama’s extensive inauguration weekend wardrobe has been thoroughly scrutinized, but there's one item in particular that's gotten everyone extra fired up: The J. Crew Valentina belt the First Lady added over her Thom Browne coat.
Photo: Getty

Photo: Getty

Every single piece of Michelle Obama’s extensive inauguration weekend wardrobe has been thoroughly scrutinized, but there's one item in particular that's gotten everyone extra fired up: The J. Crew Valentina belt the First Lady added over her Thom Browne coat.

When asked about the last minute addition, J. Crew’s Jenna Lyons told WWD, “I love that she dresses in a way that says, ‘This is the way I want to be.’ I think it looks great--I hope Thom is all right with it.”

Thom Browne was very diplomatic about the First Lady’s swap-out. “Well, I designed a belt for [the coat] myself and that’s what is so great about this experience. She has such a strong sense of what she likes and that’s a true testament to her personal style,” Browne told The Cut. “The belt I designed was very similar to the belt she wore, but it was made in the same fabric as the coat.”

The New York Times’ Eric Wilson seemed a bit cynical about the choice, writing, “She...added to the outfit a sparkly belt from J. Crew, which served no apparent purpose beyond a plug for the retailer, or to remind us that belts are one of her signatures.”

Christina Binkley wrote in the WSJ that she thought the J.Crew belt was a “savvy” nod to the First Lady’s tradition of mixing high and low brands.

No matter what the fashion critics thought, the belt obviously struck a chord with consumers, because several outlets reported yesterday that it was already sold out. And if you were hoping the retailer would reissue the belt so you could get your hands on it, tough luck: Jenna Lyons told The Today Show that J.Crew "won't rerun that. She did her own thing to that, and out of respect, we’ll let her have her that moment.” She also said the belt was actually a sash.

If anything, this is just another piece of evidence that the First Lady’s fashion choices are laden with symbolism, whether real or imagined.