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Tuesday, March 08, 2011

No longer in vogue

Due to the community in which we live, well over 90% of the weddings that Mrs. Carl and I attend are 'separate seating' - men on one side of a screen and women on the other. As a result, it is frequently the case that one of us (usually me) goes to a wedding, while the other (usually Mrs. Carl) does not, because I know the husband and Mrs. Carl does not know the wife (or vice versa).

Mrs. Carl and our daughters have learned not to ask me about the bride's gown when I come home from weddings. Leaving aside the fact that I only see the bride during the ceremony and possibly during the Grace After Meals (if I am there for either of them - often I come only for dancing at the end and to wish the fathers of the young couple and the groom 'Mazal Tov'), my stock answer for questions about "what the bride wore" is "a white dress." So there's not much point in asking me questions like that and for the most part the females in the family have learned not to ask me.

So when the most recent issue of Vogue did a story about the Assad family of Damascus and the 'glamorous' lady of the house, Asma al-Assad, I decided to let others blog about it (that last link is Alana Goodman, from whose picture I conclude is particularly better qualified than I am to discuss an article in Vogue). I was going to let the 'rose in the desert' (yes, they really called Mrs. Assad that) go by the wayside, until I saw this story in the Wall Street Journal, which was too good not to share. And it's thanks to this story that the other three get their links, for reasons that should become obvious below.
The only feet that seem to interest Vogue writer Joan Juliet Buck are the manicured toes of the first lady. Mrs. Assad reveals a "flash of red soles," we're told, as she darts about with "energetic grace."

The red soles are an allusion to the signature feature of Christian Louboutin designer heels—easily $700 a pair—that Mrs. Assad favors. (Mr. Louboutin, says Vogue, visits Damascus to buy silk brocade, and he owns an 11th-century palace in Aleppo.)

Mrs. Assad also sports Chanel sunglasses and travels in a Falcon 900 jet. But, we're assured, she's not the ostentatious sort: "Her style is not the couture-and-bling of Middle Eastern power but deliberate lack of adornment." She once worked at J.P. Morgan, never breaks for lunch, and starts her day at 6 a.m.—all while raising three children! Just another 21st-century woman trying to do it all in style.

And her parenting? "The household is run on wildly democratic principles," Vogue reports. "We all vote on what we want and where," says Mrs. Assad of herself, her husband and their children.

For the people of Syria, not so much. Outside their home, the Assads believe in democracy the way Saddam Hussein did. In 2000, Bashar al-Assad won 97% of the vote. Vogue musters the gumption only to call this "startling." In fact, it's part of a political climate that's one of the world's worst—on par, says the watchdog group Freedom House, with those of North Korea, Burma and Saudi Arabia.

But none of those countries has Asma. "The 35-year-old first lady's central mission," we're told, "is to change the mind-set of six million Syrians under eighteen, encourage them to engage in what she calls 'active citizenship.'"

That's just what 18-year-old high-school student Tal al-Mallouhi did with her blog, but it didn't stop the Assad regime from arresting her in late 2009. Or from sentencing her, in a closed security court last month, to five years in prison for "espionage."

Ms. Mallouhi goes unmentioned in Vogue. But readers get other crucial details: On Fridays, Bashar al-Assad is just an "off-duty president in jeans—tall, long-necked, blue-eyed." He "talks lovingly about his first computer," Vogue records, and he says that he studied ophthalmology "because it's very precise, it's almost never an emergency, and there is very little blood."

So it's the opposite of his Syria: murky and lawless, operating under emergency law since 1963, and wont to shed blood through its security forces and proxies like Hezbollah.
Read the whole thing.

So why didn't I link those other three blog posts (and several others that have written about this story) earlier? Well, until I read the Journal article, I didn't know what Louboutins are (Mrs. Carl has much simpler tastes). I clicked on the Journal article from Twitter because of its reference to what the 'dictator's wife' is wearing. And I still haven't read the Vogue article, and therefore would not have linked any of the other blog posts. I can't cover everything! I don't plan to read the Vogue article either. It's too long and probably a waste of time for me to read. I'm not going to imitate Mrs. Assad's style - nor her husband's - anyway.

But I will read those other three blog posts now....

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At 3:04 PM, Blogger Red Tulips said...

Just for the record, one of my favorite weddings was one where there were 'trees' between the men and women at first when dancing, but the trees were removed midway through for mixed gender dancing. I felt that was a good compromise between orthodoxy and modernist sensibilities.

And as far as Asma al-Assad goes...the article was simply revolting!

At 3:06 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

The Assads are Westernized, secular Arabs. But the vast majority of Syrians, Egyptians, Saudis, etc are not Westernized and don't care much for Western influence.

So this story makes them pretty much an anomaly in their own country.

At 5:05 PM, Blogger Juniper in the Desert said...

Talking of fashion, maybe someone could blog Mrs Assad on John Galliano.
Her she is on Israel:


The comments following show her audience.They cannot be repeated here.


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