Go to your favorite internet search engine and type the words “Obama sleeveless” and you’ll be rewarded by a number of portals to the Teapublican fevered mind. If you’re in a hurry, I’ll give you the short version: Michelle Obama doesn’t “look” like a First Lady because she wears sleeveless dresses. No, I’m not kidding.
I’ll leave it to you to speculate about what’s really bugging her fashion critics. I’m more interested in the notion that sleeveless dresses on a First Lady is something new and unusual. It isn’t. At all.
When Dolley Madison ran into an old friend — who, like her, had been a Quaker, but had left the faith — she saw his bare head and asked “Brother, where is thy broadbrim?” He looked at her gown without sleeves or neck and with a plunging neckline and asked, “Sister, where is thy kerchief?”
When Mary Lincoln wore her sleeveless dresses, she got slammed for “showing off her bosom.”
When Frances Cleveland wore sleeveless gowns, the Women’s Christian Temperance Union circulated a petition demanding that she cover up because they claimed she was an immoral influence on girls.
Maybe Michelle Obama can take comfort in that she’s not the first First Lady to take heat for bearing her arms. She can also take comfort in the fact that she’s in good company: