Michelle Obama wore a black, orange and bronze-striped dress to the White House Halloween party on Saturday that looked like one of Diane Von Furstenberg’s designs — but it was actually a lower-priced knockoff.
Obama’s dress, from British runway-inspired fast-fashion chain ASOS, was inspired by the silk and polyester Savannah Striped Dress from DVF’s fall 2011 collection, according to Styleite. Though the two dresses have a similar cut and color, the neckline on the DVF dress is a boatneck, while the ASOS dress has a crewneck. It retails for £40, or about $63, while the DVF original would have set her back $498.
Though Obama is a devotee of designer fashion — often commissioning designers to create custom gowns for state dinners — this isn’t the first time she has chosen fast fashion over a pricey original. The Cut notes that she wore a H&M “Narciso Rodriguez–esque” dress on the campaign trail, for example. Even custom-designed apparel from her isn’t immune to imitation: Her inaugural ball gown, designed by Jason Wu, was reproduced by ABS by Alan Schwartz.
But in wearing fast fashion, Obama is vulnerable to criticism from the industry, which is fighting for copyright protection from affordable retailers who reinterpret or outright duplicate their designs. Fashion designers including Von Furstenberg have lobbied on Capitol Hill for protection against mass-market outlets that churn out copies of their work soon after each season’s fashion week concludes.
“I don’t know that fashion is art. It’s design,” Von Furstenberg told the Post in June. “But it has value and we have to protect it. It’s intellectual property.”
Von Furstenberg also chided the first lady for wearing Alexander McQueen to a state dinner with China. She felt that Obama should have chosen an American designer.
Even if Von Furstenberg and the fashion industry disapprove of Obama’s Halloween wear, choosing the original dress may not have spared the first lady from criticism. Had Obama bought the original DVF dress, she could have been reprimanded for spending nearly $500 on a dress in a time of economic turmoil.GALLERY: See more photos of the first lady's state dinner style