Obama and Photoshop: A wise combination?


Naeem Khan’s design worn by Michelle Obama to present during the Oscars 2013. Courtesy of Getty/Fars.

Decadence was alive at this year’s Oscars Award Ceremony. The usual batch of A-list celebrities attended, as well as newbie Michelle Obama. Her dress didn’t receive such a positive welcome though, as it was later photoshopped by the Iranian media.

It was Michelle’s present at the Oscars and chose the award for ‘Best Picture’. She delivered her speech in a silver sequin-detail dress by Indian-born designer, Naeem Khan. (www.naeemkhan.com to see full S/S13 collection)

Despite Michelle’s inability to be present on the night, the Hollywood fashion scene praised her choice of dress, naming it: “Another unique and understated dress.” (Anna Wintour, 24.02.13)

Critics from the Middle East were not so favourable. Hours later, Iranian media channel, ‘Fars’ photoshopped Michelle’s dress before broadcast consent. In order to convey with traditional Iranian ideals on female identity, Michelle’s dress was re-vamped to include material that covered the arms, shoulders and décolletage.

Iran is a country in mid-transition. While Iranian women must wear a hijab on television, appearances of Western celebrities are tolerated wearing a little less. It’s now evident however, that many women are making a shift towards American fashion and broadening their ‘sexual boundaries’.

Raha Karimi, a young Iranian national told me: “I’m proudly part of a new generation of Iranian females. Although respectful of my culture, I feel it’s important for our women to move in to the present and adopt a wider variety of identities.” (01/02/13) Would these pseudo-revolutionary women find it offensive that a dress worn in public by a leading political figure has been changed for their warped viewing? I imagine some women may find this an insult against their plight, as well as the designer.

Michelle Obama's Oscars dress

The original and photoshopped dress worn to present ‘Best Picture’. Courtesy of Getty/Fars

I wonder: what would Naeem Khan’s reaction be to seeing his design largely edited by a foreign state? He is noted to dress First Ladies, and Michelle Obama is a regular client. He retains copyright over his designs, and would be particularly proud of one which is featured within a globally-broadcast awards ceremony. I’d like to question whether it’s in fact legal to transform the look of a design without consent.

I would love to hear your opinions and reactions to this event. Are you in favour of the editing? Do you feel that Michelle has a responsibility to respect all cultures during a public appearance? Or do you feel it was rude, or unnecessary? Do let me know your views, and keep the fashion debate alive!


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