michelle obama gapThe First Lady became a style icon by looking sharp, bringing retro styles back in a modern way, rocking bright, bold colors and patterns, and mixing and matching little-known designers with big name ones. But Michelle Obama also deserves two thumbs-up for wearing a $30 Gap dress. It's budget-friendly but, at the same time, reflective of a bigger fashion trend that we may only be aware of subconsciously.

It's not just that most of us are constantly striving to be more economic with our fashion choices. It's that going to the other extreme and wearing super-pricey, in-your-face expensive designer styles looks more gauche than ever right now.  

Remember back about 10 years ago during the Sex & the City heyday, the Clinton era, dot-com bubble of extravagant spending?

Dropping as much dough as you could on "look at me!" Manolos or a Prada purse was something many of us aspired to.

Fast forward to 2009, more and more of us were standing on the unemployment line, and even if you could afford that stuff, who would WANT it? It seems like it would come off looking insensitive, distasteful, cringe-worthy. I mean, have you noticed -- no one's really keen on sporting a purse/tank top/flip flops with a HUGE logo anymore, like they were in the late '90s. Now, designer fashion for less is a different story. Sure, you can wear that Marc Jacobs shift, but it's best if it doesn't SCREAM "couture!!" and bonus points if you got it at a discount department store or sample sale website for 60 percent off.

That's why when Mrs. Obama rocks the Gap dress or the J.Crew pants, she's obviously not just a.) wearing what she's comfortable in or b.) trying to show us she's on the same page as the average American woman. She's also completely tapped into our cultural vibe of what's appropriate right now.

Of course, for everything there is a time and/or place. Michelle shouldn't be expected to wear budget-friendly looks 24/7/365. She's a public figure who attends major high-profile events, and let's face it -- a Gap dress wouldn't be right for a meeting with the royals. As First Lady, it makes sense that she would wear a pricier dress or gown for a formal occasion. Just like we would splurge on a dress for a wedding or suit for a job interview. But when it comes to everyday, daytime travel, or casual events, Michelle has proven that her choices aren't just fashion-forward -- they're gracefully recession-proof. 

Do you agree that wearing "in-your-face" designer fashion is tasteless right now? Do you think Michelle Obama's choices are appropriate to the times we live in?

 

Image via Win McNamee/Getty