According to today’s Times, the Chris Benz skirt that Sasha Obama wore on election night last week was a hand-me-down from her older sister, Malia. This makes sense, as it’s from several years ago (spring 2010) and growing kids don’t usually hold onto clothes for that long. But the takeaway from their closet-sharing is that they are, and should be treated as, normal kids whose wardrobes don’t revolve around public appearances. Like their mom — and perhaps thanks to their mom — they own sensible outfits that are meant to be lived in. This is not a revelation.
Unlike their parents, who are not only adults but have fought long and hard for their place in the public eye, Sasha and Malia Obama’s lives and garments are not meant to be dissected. It’s a fine line, of course: When they make an official public appearance as the First Family — Election Night, for example — and their clothing has clearly been coordinated to make a statement, it seems appropriate to comment on it. But even then the media was careful. Chris Benz’s publicists cleared everything with the White House before they sent out a press release about Sasha’s skirt, and ASOS decided not to promote the fact that Malia wore their designs.
But today’s Times suggests that the next four years may bring about more scrutiny of the first daughters: “[J]ust wait until prom season,” the article warns ominously. Designer Gregory Parkinson, whose publicist sent out a press release last week when Sasha wore a skirt he’d made for Anthropologie, says, “The torch has been passed … This is great exposure for a whole new generation of customers.”
As if Sasha and Malia’s generation doesn’t have enough teen and tween celebrities to obsess over and dress like? And as if Sasha and Malia don’t have enough to worry about when it comes to prom already, like boys and friends and whether Barack will let them wear the dress they want? It’s one thing if, like many very young models and actresses, their outfits are specially engineered for publicity reasons (and in some cases, like Election Night, they are). But it’s not their job to promote anything in their day-to-day lives. Let’s hope everyone continues to respect that.