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January 4, 2009

Jarrett, Obama, And A More World White House

Jarrett Vogue.jpg

As the Obama’s arrive in Washington in anticipation of the inauguration, a new chapter begins at The BAG, involving an eye on the visual odyssey of the extended administration.

I was particularly interested in this photo shoot featuring Valerie Jarrett, perhaps Barack and Michelle’s closest advisor, which appeared in Vogue in October.   There are a number of features of the composition worth focusing on, one being the prominence of the PDA. With an assortment of gizmos happening to dominate the NYT Mag’s portrait last month of Roberts Gibbs, the obvious point, reinforced above, is that the new Administration will be wired, networked and technologically-savvy as none before.

The element of the image that can easily be overlooked, however — given the photo was taken by and for Vogue — is Jarrett’s choice of dress. The cheongsam, which first appeared in China in the 1600’s, was ultimately modified into a more fitted and stylish garment in Shanghai in the ’20’s. In this case, I see the presence of the dress as extending beyond a fashion statement.

Having been born in Iran and having lived a year in London before moving to the U.S. at the age of seven, Jarrett — who spoke Farsi and French as a child — has an international orientation that, beyond the political or philosophical, is genetic. Of course, Obama’s own international roots are well-known by now with a father hailing from Kenya; his living, from ages 6 through 10, in Indonesia; and his teen years spent with his grandparent’s in Hawaii’s cultural milieu.   

Given history and biography, what we see above in the person of Jarrett — as we do in Obama (and others in the Administration, including National Security Advisor nominee, Gen. James Jones, for example, who grew up in France and attended the American School of Paris) is a reality that hasn’t necessarily received that much focus in the homeland press. Beyond just the fashion or cultural chic, or an empathy for culture, the Obama administration — in addition to a mixed- and multiracial profile — has an international consciousness at its core.

Vogue’s Valerie Jarrett profile here.

(image: Jonathan Becker)

  • Wayne

    Is the title meant to echo the “Bush’s Brain” thing?

  • jtfromBC

    I’m not much into fashion but those are cool looking threads adorning Valarie.
    I thought Barack called Michelle his “rock” – the person who keeps him grounded.
    JEREMY SCAHILL has an insightful article on some other rocks that Barrack will have for his slingshot
    “..What ultimately ties Obama’s team together is their unified support for the classic US foreign policy recipe:
    the hidden hand of the free market, backed up by the iron fist of US militarism to defend the America First doctrine…”

  • sohbet

    Go back to Jarrett, Obama, And A More World White House

  • cenoxo

    Before President Elect Obamaham rules the World, let’s see how he fares with the Union, shall we? At least — if Valerie Jarrett wears that style of working dress in the White House — international affairs might very well be the primary thing on the Executive mind.
    Presidential style may be all the Vogue now, but it’s certainly not substance. Remember that there’s always more than one side to Camelot.

  • Our Paul

    Nice point Michael. In my more droll moments I am fond of saying that in the U.S. if you speak only English in a non British/Canadian accent,you are American. If you speak two languages, you are foreigner. If you speak three, why you must be a spy. There are plenty other countries where is you speak only one language, you are considered ignorant…

  • Isabella Clark

    How is heaven’s name did government become HOT?

  • cenoxo

    The Bush administration started It with boots on the ground in Germany…

    …and now the Obama administration is hoping for a surge in Asia.
    Gotta keep that transition smooth.

  • Gloria

    This is so much more interesting than the white phosphorus shells burning flesh in gaza city as seen in Times of London (UK).

  • EvilPoet

    UGH. I don’t relate to this image at all. It has a high tech feel that comes across as condescending.

  • cenoxo

    This is so much more interesting than the white phosphorus shells burning flesh in gaza city as seen in Times of London (UK).
    (As seen in the Times Online article Israel rains fire on Gaza with phosphorus shells.)
    Vogue is perhaps more entertaining, yes, as long as you realize that much comedy is very closely related to tragedy. Tears must give way to laughter occasionally if we hope to stay sane. If only runway shows were held between the front lines, both sides might laugh so much that they couldn’t aim their their weapons.
    Enjoy it when the opportunity arises.

  • demit

    It doesn’t come as a surprise to me that women continue to be scrutinized by their clothing. It seems it will ever be thus.
    But If I were to see any heavy significance in what she has chosen to wear on this particular day, it is that it is a dress and not a business suit. I think that might bespeak her confidence in being ‘taken seriously’ (that thing that women still have to worry about) without the protective & imitative uniform of a suit, more than it does any ‘genetic’ international orientation.
    American women’s fashions routinely incorporate influences from various cultures. Even if Jarrett had purchased this dress in Shanghai or Hong Kong or somewhere else in the Far East, as an authentic cheongsam, it doesn’t really matter. A woman traveling who had never been out of the U.S. in her life could still have been attracted to this dress and bought it to take home. Such styles are readily available here in any case.
    Women like fashion and wear, if they are stylish, what flatters them. Which this dress does, which I imagine is what made you notice it. I find your belief that the dress (given how Jarrett looks in it) would be an overlooked element in a photo composition, unless you pointed it out its international flavor, a source of great amusement, no offense.

  • Rafael

    BTW, thanks Bag for cluing me in on the name of that particular type of dress. Something I was looking for a few months back when I was (and still am) in the midst of writing my second novel.
    Very fetching by the way.

  • non

    thanks for the times link, cenoxo.

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