Saturday, September 20, 2014
FAIRFIELD-SUISUN, CALIFORNIA
99 CENTS

First lady’s fashions raise question: who pays?

By
June 04, 2014 |

WASHINGTON — Michelle Obama’s fashionable clothing has become something of a given in her five-plus years as first lady. Yet her wardrobe still is the subject of endless public fascination and one long-simmering question: Who pays for those incredible outfits?

It’s no small matter. Her high-low fashion choices mix everyday, off-the-rack fare with custom creations from top designers whose gowns can run into five figures.

In recent weeks, Mrs. Obama has turned heads with a forest-green Naeem Khan dress at the opening of a new costume gallery at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. She shimmered in a silver Marchesa gown at the White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner. And her flowered shirtdress for a Mother’s Day tea at the White House (recycled from an earlier event) hit the just right note for an audience of military moms.

It takes money to pull that off, month after month. Those three dresses by themselves could add up to more than $15,000 retail.

Is it the taxpayers who foot the bill? No. (Despite what critics say.)

Is it Mrs. Obama? Usually, but not always.

Does she pay full price? Not likely.

Does she ever borrow gowns from designers? No.

The financing of the first lady’s wardrobe is a subject that has bedeviled presidents and their wives for centuries.

Mary Todd Lincoln racked up tens of thousands of dollars in clothing bills and considered selling manure from the White House grounds to pay them off, according to the National First Ladies’ Library. Jacqueline Kennedy’s father-in-law stepped in to finance her Oleg Cassini wardrobe to keep clothes from becoming a political liability for President John Kennedy. Nancy Reagan got grief for borrowing designer gowns and not always returning them or reporting them as gifts.

Laura Bush, in her memoir, said she was “amazed by the sheer number of designer clothes that I was expected to buy” as first lady.

How does Mrs. Obama, a fashion icon with far more expensive tastes than Mrs. Bush, swing it?

For starters, the Obamas reported adjusted income of $481,000 last year, and assets worth $1.8 million to $7 million.

And like most people, Mrs. Obama (mostly her personal aide, really) looks for discounts.

And, for really big events, the first lady has an option not available to every fashionista.

Here’s how Joanna Rosholm, press secretary to the first lady, explains it:

“Mrs. Obama pays for her clothing. For official events of public or historic significance, such as a state visit, the first lady’s clothes may be given as a gift by a designer and accepted on behalf of the U.S. government. They are then stored by the National Archives.”

That saves Mrs. Obama considerable money, although the White House refused to say how often the first lady wears donated clothes and the National Archives declined to say how many such items it has in storage. The White House did say that the first lady doesn’t borrow any clothing and, for the most part, buys her own clothes.

The clothing donated by designers includes Mrs. Obama’s two inaugural gowns made by Jason Wu, who declined to discuss how he works with the first lady. Two other examples of gowns worn by the first lady that were donated by designers: the blue Carolina Herrera gown that Mrs. Obama wore to February ‘s state dinner for French President Francois Hollande and the gold-beaded Naeem Khan gown that Mrs. Obama wore to the 2012 governors ball, now on display at the American Museum of Natural History. Herrera and Khan declined comment.

Wearing donated gowns represents a change in practice from the Bush administration.

Anita McBride, chief of staff to Laura Bush during her time as first lady, said Mrs. Bush paid for all her clothes. She credits the Obama White House with finding a cost-saving way to “keep Mrs. Obama in all those incredible clothes and to have the use of them not once but multiple times.”

Lawyers who served in the Obama and Bush White Houses describe taking care in working with the first lady’s office to ensure that arrangements with designers didn’t run afoul of ethics rules designed to guard against conflicts of interest and questionable quid pro quos.

Beyond the unknowns about how often Mrs. Obama’s clothes are donated, there are questions about how much she pays for those she purchases.

Several designers who have provided clothes for the first lady declined to discuss their arrangements. But given the prestige that comes with dressing Mrs. Obama, it’s widely thought that designers are eager to cut the first lady a break. Former White House lawyers said any discounts provided to the first lady would have to be in line with what designers offer other top customers to avoid being considered gifts.

Paco Underhill, author of “What Women Want: The Science of Female Shopping,” said the markups on designer clothes are “astronomical” – and the discounts can be steep as well.

“Some of the routine discounts that people ask for are 40 percent off,” he said.

The Associated Press

The Associated Press

LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | No comments

The Daily Republic does not necessarily condone the comments here, nor does it review every post. Read our full policy

.

Solano News

 
Memorial focuses on hope, healing from addiction

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A1, 1 Comment | Gallery

Solano jobless rate drops, jobs rise

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A1

 
Vacaville High graduate shines at tech event

By Brad Stanhope | From Page: A2

 
New law aimed at urban water district reports

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A3

Travis celebrates KC-10′s 20 years at base

By Ian Thompson | From Page: A3 | Gallery

 
Highway 37 detours in place

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A3

 
 
Maintenance begins on Rio Vista Bridge Sunday

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A4, 1 Comment

Mother gives late daughter a voice by helping others

By Susan Winlow | From Page: B8 | Gallery

 
 
Fairfield police log: Sept. 18, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A9

Suisun City police log: Sept. 18, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A9

 
.

US / World

Record-setting retardant used on California fire

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

 
Brown vetoes diaper changing-station bills

By The Associated Press | From Page: A4

Oakland mother charged in cocaine death of son, 2

By The Associated Press | From Page: A4, 1 Comment

 
UC campus chancellors granted hefty pay raises

By The Associated Press | From Page: A4

California school gender equity ruling upheld

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

 
State to ban smoking at home day cares

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

Driver of stolen van that hit dog gets prison time

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5, 1 Comment

 
License plate scanner networks capture movements

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

Feds approve California’s immigrant license words

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5 | Gallery

 
California man accused of killing fellow gym-goer

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5, 1 Comment

Fence-jumper makes it into the White House

By The Associated Press | From Page: A9

 
Florida town knew shooter had troubled past

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

Daughter calls Utah doctor a monster at sentencing

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

 
3 guilty in Ga. salmonella-tainted peanut trial

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

Fierce fighting in Yemeni capital kills 120

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

 
Sierra Leone begins 3-day Ebola lockdown

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

Ambush suspect could be aided by dense woods

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

 
France joins US against Islamic State over Iraq

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10, 1 Comment

After vote to stay in UK, Scots must heal divide

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

 
.

Opinion

Lots of services available for Solano veterans

By Ted Puntillo | From Page: A8

 
Cheers, jeers for the week of Sept. 14-20, 2014

By Daily Republic | From Page: A8

Editorial cartoons for Sept. 20, 2014

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Fairfield Ford boosts animal adoption efforts

By Letter to the Editor | From Page: A8

.

Living

Today in History: Sept. 20, 2014

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

 
Community Calendar: Sept. 20, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A2

Horoscopes: Sept. 20, 2014

By Holiday Mathis | From Page: A7

 
Make sure you get educated during Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month

By Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar | From Page: A7

 
.

Entertainment

 
Fallon to pay up, broadcast show in Chicago

By The Associated Press | From Page: B9

TVGrid

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B9

 
.

Sports

Legs power Mustangs in win over Falcons

By Nick DeCicco | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
A’s Lester holds Phillies to 5 hits in 7 innings in 3-1 victory

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
Big plays in second half lift Vanden past Center

By Paul Farmer | From Page: B1

Gordon has suspension reduced to 10 games

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
After NFL, baseball addresses domestic violence

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Goodell: ‘Same mistakes can never be repeated’

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Kershaw gets 20th win as Dodgers pound Cubs 14-5

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Raiders could be down 2 starters on defense

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2 | Gallery

 
Sharks open with new vibe after playoff collapse

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

49ers’ Davis, McDonald questionable for Sunday

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Stewart slogs through tough day at New Hampshire

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Rio Vista gets easy football win over Delta

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: B2

 
Keselowski wins pole at New Hampshire

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

This date in sports history for Saturday, Sept. 20, 2014

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

 
.

Business

Pabst Brewing to be sold to Russian company

By The Associated Press | From Page: B4

 
China fines GlaxoSmithKline $492M for bribery

By The Associated Press | From Page: B4

Procter & Gamble cancels on-field NFL promotion

By The Associated Press | From Page: B4

 
California adopts olive-oil labeling standards

By The Associated Press | From Page: B4, 1 Comment

Yahoo rakes in another jackpot from Alibaba’s IPO

By The Associated Press | From Page: B4

 
Alibaba stock soars in jubilant trading debut

By The Associated Press | From Page: B4

The Kuro taste: Peppery tang and hint of squid ink

By The Associated Press | From Page: B4

 
.

Obituaries

Charles Randolph Orr

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A4

 
Corazon Libunao Thompson

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A4

Allie M. Zell-Jones

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A4

 
George Junior Rhode

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

.

Comics

Frank and Ernest

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

 
Baby Blues

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

Zits

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

 
Get Fuzzy

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

Baldo

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

 
Wizard of Id

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

Dilbert

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

 
Peanuts

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

Rose is Rose

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

 
Blondie

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

Pickles

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

 
For Better or Worse

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

Beetle Bailey

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

 
B.C.

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

Garfield

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

 
Sally Forth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

Word Sleuth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A7

 
Crossword

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A7

Sudoku

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A7

 
Bridge

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A7

Cryptoquote

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A7

 
.

Home Seller 09/20/14

Average US 30-year mortgage rate at 4.23 percent

By The Associated Press | From Page: HSR2

Real estate transactions for Sept. 20, 2014

By Daily Republic | From Page: HSR3

New Standard Pacific models in Vacaville

By Daily Republic | From Page: HSR3