Friday, December 19, 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

 
Groundbreakings, ribbon-cuttings play role in civic life

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A1, 1 Comment | Gallery

 
Sondheim’s ‘Woods’ holiday showcase for Missouri Street Theatre

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: B1 | Gallery

Frankye Kelly ready to spread holiday cheer

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: B1

 
Celebrate the magic of Christmas

By Tony Wade | From Page: A2, 2 Comments

 
Safe streets task force work nets 3

By Ryan McCarthy | From Page: A3, 5 Comments

Santas have busy week at schools

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A3, 2 Comments

 
 
 
Solano College approves officers, meeting schedule

By Susan Winlow | From Page: A4

Longtime Suisun harbor master to retire

By Ian Thompson | From Page: A4, 2 Comments

 
 
Fairfield police log: Dec. 17, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A12

 
Suisun City police log: Dec. 17, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A12, 1 Comment

 
.

US / World

 
Spy’s parents search for son after Cuba-US deal

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

Hope and some fear in Cuba amid thaw with US

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

 
Next steps on Cuba: Normalizing could take awhile

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

Sony hacking fallout puts all companies on alert

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

 
Sony film took aim at North Korea’s biggest taboo

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1, 4 Comments

Timeline of the Sony Pictures Entertainment hack

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

 
Digital dilemma: How will US respond to Sony hack?

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

Police: Drunk man shot while entering wrong house

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5, 4 Comments

 
Local emergencies in Northern California counties after rain

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

 
California’s top utility regulator defends record

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

‘Pretty horrible’ scene; car slams into crowd

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

 
Tsarnaev appears in court for 1st time since 2013

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

 
President signs legislation ending Nazi benefit checks

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

2 states challenge Colorado marijuana legalization

By The Associated Press | From Page: A8, 3 Comments

 
‘Prison Houdini’ set to make his 1st legal escape

By The Associated Press | From Page: A8

 
Feds sue NYC over Rikers Island jail violence

By The Associated Press | From Page: A8

Russian sailors leaving France without warship

By The Associated Press | From Page: A9, 2 Comments

 
Putin: West wants to defang, declaw Russian bear

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10, 2 Comments

Suspected Islamic extremists kidnap 185 in Nigeria

By The Associated Press | From Page: A13, 2 Comments

 
European court rules obesity can be a disability

By The Associated Press | From Page: A13

.

Opinion

 
Another look at school bonds

By George Guynn Jr. | From Page: A11, 6 Comments

Editorial Cartoon: Dec. 19, 2014

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A11

 
News of the day strikes a chord

By Bud Stevenson | From Page: A11, 10 Comments

 
.

Living

Today in History: Dec. 19, 2014

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2, 1 Comment

 
Community Calendar: Dec. 19, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A2

Horoscopes: Dec. 19, 2014

By Holiday Mathis | From Page: D8

 
Should I use Child Protective Services threat to get back rent?

By Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar | From Page: D8

.

Entertainment

Week in preview Dec. 19-25, 2014

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: B1

 
Sweet ‘Night at the Museum’ bids farewell to Robin Williams

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Craig Ferguson to end 10 years as host of ‘Late Late Show’

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

Eric Idle brings ‘Not the Messiah’ to Carnegie Hall

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

 
Entertainment calendar Dec. 19, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: B4

.

Sports

49ers’ Aldon Smith hopes to build off tough year

By The Associated Press | From Page: B7

 
A’s trade All-Star catcher Derek Norris to Padres

By The Associated Press | From Page: B7

Warriors beat Thunder 114-109 after Durant injury

By The Associated Press | From Page: B7

 
A’s acquire lefty De La Rosa from Arizona for cash

By The Associated Press | From Page: B7

 
Raiders defense depleted by injuries

By The Associated Press | From Page: B7

49ers’ Harbaugh mum on reported offer from Michigan

By The Associated Press | From Page: B7

 
Column: Thaw in US-Cuba relations warms up MLB

By Jim Litke | From Page: B8

Rivera: Newton ‘probably’ will start vs. Browns

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

 
Bears bench QB Jay Cutler for Clausen

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

‘Hands Up’ players to attend Ferguson Christmas party

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

 
Celtics trade Rondo to Mavericks

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

Rodriguez boys open Les Curry Tournament with victory

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: B8

 
39 bowl games and a reason to watch every one

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

Signups for Friday, Dec. 19, 2014

By Paul Farmer | From Page: B9

 
This date in sports history for Friday, Dec. 19, 2014

By The Associated Press | From Page: B11

Sports on TV/Local sports for Friday, Dec. 19, 2014

By Paul Farmer | From Page: B11

 
.

Business

Roomiest Subaru Legacy debuts for 2015

By Ann M. Job | From Page: C1

 
Dow industrials have their best day in three years

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

Ford expands drivers air bag recall nationwide

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

 
Constantly changing online prices stump shoppers

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

.

Obituaries

Lisa Dee McHughes

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4, 1 Comment

 
Travis Curt Price

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A4, 1 Comment

Ernest “Ernie” Moretti

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

 
Jennie Ponce Reyes

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

Patricia “Pat” Anne Stringfield-Pierre

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

 
.

Comics