Fashion & Beauty

The Big Fashion Coverup

October 31, 2017


FOR MICHELLE OBAMA’S official White House portrait in 2009, she bared sculpted arms and then again for former President Obama’s first congressional speech, never mind that it was February. The public gasped but it wasn’t long before women were heading to the gym to lift weights so they could show off toned biceps and triceps in sleeveless sheaths. Fast forward to today, when for her portrait, Melania Trump chose a black tuxedo jacket with a thin black scarf around the neck, an almost military look, noted New York Times fashion critic Vanessa Friedman.

Last April, Friedman called it a reflection of our current culture that women are taking cover in high-necked, voluminous blouses, suits and mid-length skirts and dresses. (Now that cold weather is finally arriving, add turtlenecks and big sweaters to that list.) No doubt the recent spate of sexual harassment charges against Bill O’Reilly, Harvey Weinstein, Terry Richardson and so many more (including the U.S. president who hasn’t been prosecuted) are influencing women to arm themselves in clothing.

As well as offering protection from winter chills, there’s also something appealing about hiding one’s less desirable body bits in oversize jackets and pantsuits.  Still, all covered up won’t suit everyone’s figure. For example, petite figures will want to avoid the dwarfing effects of a midi-skirt and slouchy sweater. And oversize anything doesn’t work for larger women either. Monochromatic pairings of, say a trim knit and a pencil skirt, convey a covered-up effect without all the extra fabric. And if you absolutely hate this trend, take comfort. As a Washington Post colleague once remarked about Mrs. Obama’s arms, don’t get too pumped up. No one will care as much about their bare arms and/or wearing sleeveless sheaths in a few years.

In the photos above, see what designers like Victoria Beckham and Amy Smilovic of Tibi showed on their fall/winter 2017 runways and our picks for ways to wear the look off the runway. 

—Janet Kelly


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2 thoughts on “The Big Fashion Coverup

  1. Nancy says:

    The fact we are covering up now is, to me, an expression of the insecurity we, as women, are feeling for our country, general freedoms and specifically women’s freedoms. It is almost as if we are arming ourselves. The confidence of Michelle Obama’s sculpted arms isn’t so confident that we are still headed forward anymore. Rather that we need to pay attention to safeguarding what we thought was a given.

    1. Janet Kelly says:

      I think that fashion felt the rumbles early. This oversize, cover-it-all-up trend started a couple of years ago. I’m only hoping that the pendulum swings back.

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