Why women today are anything but one-note

Portrait of Tammy Strobel
Associate Editor
My Reading Room
Last year, Michelle Obama released her memoir, Becoming. On her book tour, pantsuits emerged as a go-to, along with blazers, jeans and jumpsuits. Then, she wore a yellow dress from Balenciaga’s spring 2019 collection with metallic thigh- high knife boots—and the Internet exploded. One headline read, “Michelle Obama in Balenciaga is the Coolest Moment the Brand has ever had”. Harper’s BAZAAR U.S. proclaimed, “Michelle Obama just Won 2018”.
You know who else won 2018? Ariana Grande. Dressed in oversized hoodies, over-the-knee boots and a sky-high ponytail, she released a chart-topping album, Sweetener, to follow Dangerous Woman; and owned her emotions (whether she was in or out of love; feeling sweet, sexy, vulnerable or strong). On-screen, these same sensibilities can be seen in characters from Eleven on Stranger Things—innocent yet powerful, saving the world in a pink dress and denim jacket—to the eternal good girl, Riverdale’s Betty Cooper, who now has a dark side (hello, Serpent Queen).
Whether you’re a former first lady, pop star or regular ol’ nobody, when it comes to dressing (and beyond), it’s no longer or regular ol’ , it’s no longer about dull dichotomies; but compelling composites of different identities, likes and dislikes. A woman can wear stilettos one day, and sneakers the next. She can channel Meghan Markle today, and Rihanna tomorrow. She can don an embellished Gucci maxi in the day, and head-to-toe #oldceline at night.
Marc Jacobs’ spring/summer 2019 collection tapped into this zeitgeist perfectly. Drenched in saccharine hues, delicate fabrics and feminine flourishes, Jacobs flipped the notion of girlishness on its head by making his pieces larger than life. Yes, she might be in pastel, but the woman wearing one of these creations is no wallflower. Pierpaolo Piccioli continues to do the same for the Valentino woman this season. Couture-like sensibilities stayed grounded in black cotton-silk blends, while fantastical prints and shimmering sequins were worn with flat feather-trimmed sandals. There are designers who have made this sweet-and-sassy mash-up their modus operandi since day one. Simone Rocha has played with broderie anglaise, puff sleeves and florals from the start, always delivered in a way that is sculptural and conceptual. Her collections for the Moncler Genius project, now in its second outing, take that idea to the next level. Molly Goddard, too, is known for her tulle confections, whipping up dresses that are equal parts ethereal and eccentric. This season, she went in several other directions: More casual, with tunics in gingham and poplin; and more sensual, with deep-Vs and flashes of skin. In her show notes, Goddard wrote, “The Molly Goddard woman is confidently pulled together, dressed to please herself. She’s acquired a slight flush and she’s unsure whether it’s down to the sunburn or the cervezas, but she doesn’t care and it becomes her.”
What comes down the runway is a reflection, and result, of what is happening in the world. Thanks to the luminaries lighting  up our cultural landscape and the visionaries shaping our sartorial future, we can finally move past the outdated notion that a woman can only be one, or even two, thing(s).
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Clockwise from top: Valentino spring/summer 2019. Ariana Grande at the 2018 Billboard Women in Music Awards. Molly Goddard spring/summer 2019. Zendaya in Marc Jacobs spring/summer 2019. Moncler 4 Simone Rocha spring/summer 2019. Michelle Obama onstage with Sarah Jessica Parker in a yellow dress from Balenciaga spring/summer 2019 and metallic thigh-high boots