French Elle is currently under fire for what has been interpreted as a racist blog post. A blogger for the publication wrote a piece about Michelle Obama's fashion flair and the rise of black-geosie, insinuating that the Obamas are the first fashionable African-Americans.
In this America led for the first time a black president, the chic has become a plausible option for a community so far pegged to its codes [of] streetwear...But if in 2012 the 'black-geoisie' has integrated all the white codes, it does not [do so] literally. [There] is always a classic twist, with a bourgeois ethnic reference (a batik-printed turban/robe, a shell necklace, a 'créole de rappeur') that recalls the roots, wrote Elle blogger Nathalie Dolivo.
Black-geoisie refers to the Obamas' style of dressing white yet maintaining their blackness through the use of symbols--like a shell necklaces, robes or turbans. Dolivo suggested that America's first black president and his family give the black community a chic option rather than streetwear codes.
Michelle Obama sets the tone, focusing on cutting-edge brands...revisiting the wardrobe of Jackie O in a jazzy way, wrote Dolivo. She continued with saying that black women use fashion as a political weapon and have returned to style as a source of dignity.
Criticism quickly flared as more people caught wind of the tacky and offensive post. How, in 2012, in a France where there are at least three million blacks and mixed people, can you write such nonsense? You are too kind when you write that in 2012 we have incorporated the white codes...what do you think, in 2011, we dressed in hay and burlap bags? commented one reader (via NY Mag).
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The person who wrote this article is very limited, both culturally and intellectually. The sad part is that it really has the feeling of beingpositive [sic]. [Ms. Dolivo] I think you should travel a bit more and broadenyour [sic] horizons, wrote another.
Your article is a very poorly written, but it perfectly reflects your state of mind. Fashion has no boundaries or color, and it's a terrible admission of failure to see that [French Elle] can be reduced to such amalgams...Black women are beautiful and elegant, [and do] not need magazines to tell us what to wear, we dress with taste and class and we have always done! This article is nothing but a bunch of clichés, without any interestor [sic] informative journalism...Thumbs down! said another.
Others explicitly blasted the writer.
[This is] GROTESQUE, SHAMEFUL, and USELESS. White dress codes? Did I really read white dress codes..? wrote one angry reader, while another added, You really think we waited until the Obamas to know style and let go of our 'streetwear' proclivities?
Not only were Dolivo's critiques racist, they were wholly inaccurate in their claims.
While Michelle Obama has been known to wear African-influenced jewelry and support young black designers, it's far less accurate to define her wardrobe as 'batik' robes and turbans, noted NY Daily News writer Lindsay Goldwert.
The outdated stereotypes proved Dolivo's knowledge of fashion to be haphazard, if not obsolete.
The truly flustering passage [is] when she attributed black modern dress to white dress codes, then ventures to say we 'afro-centrize' our looks with shells and 'boubous'. Some of us do, some of us don't. We are not one monolithic group to be written about like zoo animals. I. Just. Can't, wrote fashion blogger Claire Sulmers for Fashion Bomb Daily.
The article has since been removed from French Elle's Web site.