The biggest fashion question this week has been what Michelle Obama would wear on Inauguration Day.

But why? Why didn’t tabloid TV shows and the blogosphere buzz that Barack was having a tough time selecting the color of his necktie? This white shirt, or that white shirt? This black suit, or that black suit? What shoes will he choose?

We pay more attention to what women wear because women have a greater potential for fashion disaster. Take, for example, Aretha Franklin’s hat.

For the Inauguration Day ceremony, Michie O chose a lemongrass yellow sheath dress and matching coat by Isabel Toledo, green Jimmy Choo “Glacier” pumps, and green J. Crew gloves. People are split. Some loved the look, saying Michie O looked youthful and elegant. Some say that the dress was unflattering to her figure, that the color with its greenish cast was unflattering to her complexion, and that overall, she looked like she was wearing an elderly woman’s fancy tablecloth.

Why wasn’t more fuss made over Obama’s pick of a Republican Red tie, instead of one in Democrat Blue?

I teach sixth grade at a Los Angeles middle school. On Tuesday, my school held an Inauguration Day assembly, for which all of the students were packed into the auditorium to watch a feed of the ceremony. Where were you when the first African American president took the oath of office? I was on the floor.

For the most part, I was impressed with the way the students seemed to be paying attention to what was going on during the ceremony. They were pretty quiet for everything through the new president’s speech. (After Dr. Lowery gave his ridiculous benediction, it was a whole other story.) They were pretty quiet.

This is the first inauguration that I have watched in its entirety. The thing that struck me the most was the phrase “peaceful transfer of power.” Oh yeah, I thought, the new guy doesn’t storm the White House. For the rest of the ceremony, scenes from the movie “Tristan and Isolde” kept replaying in my mind.

I was less than pleased each time the camera panned to George W. Bush and the auditorium filled with the kind of noise reserved for a mob yielding torches and swords. I was even more upset by the way my principal reacted. After the ceremony, he said something to the effect of: In some countries you wouldn’t be allowed by the government to boo your leader, but we live in a country where you can.

What he failed to say was: While we have the right, we need to think about what is right. We were witnessing a peaceful transfer of power, not a mustachioed melodrama villain tying an innocent maiden to the conveyor belt of a sawmill.

I disagreed with the way my principal handled the situation, but I didn’t boo him. Booing isn’t graceful.

I’m not usually good at being graceful. I’m usually the girl who spills coffee down her pants leg when she’s wearing khakis, or the girl who eats large quantities of raw vegetables during meetings so that her mouth will be too full to say what she’s actually thinking.

In President Obama’s inagural address, he thanked the former president “for his service to our nation, as well as the generosity and cooperation he has shown throughout this transition.” This is how we behave during a peaceful transfer of power, regardless of what color necktie we choose to wear.

Tuesday night, Michie O wore an ivory, one-shouldered ball gown adorned with fabric petals and Swarovski crystals, a dress that designer Jason Wu said he wanted to be “soft, feminine, but powerful.” Graceful.

Mariel Howsepian digs black coffee, fairy tales and a man in coveralls. She lives in Santa Monica and can be reached at

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