Obamachic and Obamamania

FASHION/POLITICS - Like Barack and Michelle Obama's fashion sense? You're not alone.

Barack Obama is not just the next president of the United States. He's also the new face of fashion.

Thanks in part to sightings of A-listers like Ryan Phillippe, Brad Pitt, Beyoncé and Kanye West wearing Obama T-shirts, as well as the constant and prominent display of the politician's handsome face on the big screen at the recent MTV Europe awards, his image has reached the status of an international pop culture icon.

So it shouldn't be surprising that Toronto designer Kingi Carpenter, of the quirky label Peach Berserk, is making stuff emblazoned with Obama's face. Carpenter makes silkscreened hoodies, dresses, T-shirts, skirts and scarves... all with Obama on them. One woman even bought Obama pillows for her house.

The designer, a self-admitted political junkie, follows American politics obsessively and is an Obama fan. But her inspiration for the Obama items arose out of Canadian history. She once saw a dress from the Trudeaumania era emblazoned with the image of the famously attractive prime minister and was fascinated with what it meant.


MICHELLE OBAMA

Every time Michelle Obama wears one of her unusual dress selections on television, the item flies off the shelves.

The famous $148 sundress she wore on The View and the J.Crew yellow suit she wore on Letterman were huge hits with shoppers, while the red dress she wore on her first visit to the White House sold out within a week.

For women it will be Michelle who will be setting fashion and cultural trends when the couple reaches the White House.

Michelle Obama also nixed getting a designer pooch like a stupid chihuahua, saying her kids would adopt a rescue dog, and will continue this thrifty, socially conscious pattern throughout the term.

Obama's American-made family car, a Ford Escape hybrid, is a perfect example of this, as it is both patriotic and environmentally responsible. It sets an example Americans can live by.

This doesn't always work: Jimmy Carter tried to get Americans to wear sweaters during the energy crisis of the '70s and, even though he happily sported a cardigan, the style was only adopted by a few. On the other hand, he says, Ronald Reagan's love affair with the colour brown was widely adopted in men's clothing.

When fashions were adopted, such as Jackie Kennedy's clothes and J.F.K's refusal to wear a hat, the fashion fads were widespread throughout the U.S., regardless of political affiliation.

Michelle Obama's wardrobe differs greatly from the "very European and Anglo Saxon" outfits worn by Cindy McCain and Laura Bush, but instead features a more globalized chic.

Barack Obama's preference for white shirts and dark suits sends a message that he's honest and straightforward. We can expect white dress shirts to get a popular surge. Everything about the new First Family will be scrutinized and copied by an adoring public. Together their White House style will fit in with the new era of austerity, but will still have sparkle and energy.

Its definitely an improvement over George W. Bush and his shoulder pads.

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