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Michelle Obama branded 'ridiculous' for wearing 'cheap, imported clothes' as U.S. fashion industry suffers
Published: 18:32 BST, 26 June 2012 | Updated: 23:20 BST, 26 June 2012
Author and outspoken fashion activist Elizabeth Cline has made her criticism of America's apparel industry personal by attacking the First Lady.
Adored by many for mixing high couture with mainstream brands, Mrs Obama's oft budget-conscious style does not, however, impress Ms Cline.
Rather than see it as a legitimate way to relate to the average American woman, she believes there is nothing patriotic about wearing an item manufactured in bulk in foreign factories.
Average American: First Lady Michelle Obama, pictured in Jason Wu for Target in February this year, has come under fire for shopping at Target where clothes are manufactured in bulk abroad
Ms Cline complained to The Huffington Post: 'I think it's ridiculous that she's always lauded as this example of democratic fashion or that she's so American because her fashion is accessible.
'The reality is that the garment and textile trade has been a dying industry for the last 10 years. So why are we so excited when we see our first lady in cheap, imported clothes?'
Ms Cline's comments follow hot on the heels of the release of her book, Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost Of Cheap Fashion, in which she laments the now defunct garment district in New York and the curse of cheap, mass-producing retail giants.
Once drawn in herself by the appeal of stores like Zara and H&M who turn over trends every two weeks and facilitate the concept of the ever-changing wardrobe, the author had a revelation after buying seven pairs of cheap flats.
Cheap chic: Mrs Obama wore customised H&M to appear on Live! with Regis and Kelly in February 2011
Fresh young talent: Despite Ms Cline's denouncement of her 'un-American' fashion choices, the First Lady has been hailed as a great supporter of unknown and emerging U.S. designers
'I remember getting home that day and just feeling really ashamed of myself,' she recalled. 'I also remember that the shoes just smelled toxic, like there were fumes coming off of them.
'That made me wonder what the environmental impact of what I was doing was.'
Despite Ms Cline's denouncement of her 'un-American' fashion choices, the First Lady has been hailed as a great supporter of unknown and emerging U.S. designers.
During her husband's presidency, Mrs Obama has stepped out in Rachel Roy, Isabel Toledo, Michael Kors, Jason Wu, Tracey Reese, Maria Pinto, Peter Soronen, and Thakoon.
Budget buys: The First Lady pictured in her beloved J Crew cardigans in 2009 (left and centre), and in a Gap tunic in June 2011 (right)
Elegant no matter what: The First Lady is also frequently seen in the designs of home-grown talents like Jason Wu (left) and Thakoon (right)
And though she has been snapped shopping in Target and frequently dressing up a J Crew skirt or a Banana Republic cardigan, her red carpet choices are far from 'cheap'.
Ms Cline's issue though, she says, is the dearth of clothing manufacture on home soil that previous first ladies were able to support and endorse.
The problem now is that prominent women in the media wear coveted designer outfits that no one else can afford and then retail mega-brands collaborate with the designers to recreate the look on the cheap.
Outspoken: Elizabeth Cline once shopped at high street brands like Zara and H&M herself until a revelation prompted the writing of her book Over-Dressed, in which she argues the U.S. garment industry is dwindling
'Now we've got this system where you're either in designer clothes that no one can afford or you're in cheap, imported clothes,' Ms Cline explained. 'I think, if anything, [Michelle Obama] should make people feel sad about the state of the fashion industry.'
In her opinion, the First Lady along with style leaders like Kate Middleton should use their influence to encourage people to rethink their approach to fashion.
Perhaps forgetting how often Michelle Obama recycles her looks, she said of the Duchess of Cornwall: 'I like Kate Middleton because she'll wear the same thing twice in 10 days.'
A spokesman for Mrs Obama declined to comment on Ms Cline's statements.