[Via the WaPo.]
I’ll be the first one to say that some of Palin’s jackets (and boots) are bad as hell. I especially liked the pink jacket in the Katie Couric interview. But, seriously, how many black skirts did they buy for her? Except for her suit at the debate, she’s been wearing more mix ‘n’ match separates than a middle school principal.
Fashion writer, ahem, the fashion writer, Robin Givhan wrote a piece for the WaPo on Palin’s style back in September. She concluded that Palin’s style was designed not to stand out. Which is exactly why it does.
Her clothes are unpretentious, but they are also unremarkable. They have nothing to do with Fashion. It’s fashion show season now, with designers unveiling their spring 2009 collections in New York, Milan and soon Paris. So far, none of them have suggested that the next new thing for the power-wielding woman is a straight black skirt with a boxy, oyster-colored blazer, which is what Palin wore when she accepted the vice-presidential nomination in St. Paul, Minn.
In the narrow confines of political style, the accepted rule is to dress in a manner that implies empathy for one’s constituency — so don’t wear anything too expensive — but also conveys authority. Palin has embraced the former and utterly ignored the latter. Nothing about her style jibes with the image of power. She does not dress like a boss lady, an Iron Lady or the devil who wore Prada.
I find it interesting that before we knew the RNC spent 150K to outfit Palin, Givhan’s first assertion was that Palin’s clothes imply empathy for the constituency. They spent triple the median U.S. household income, on clothes and hair, in an effort to make her look like a regular “gal” (but prettier).
It doesn’t matter so much in a traditional sense. Of course there will be donor outrage. Every dollar the RNC spent on Palin was a dollar that could have gone to saving Republican seats in the House.
The only thing that bothers me is that she comes across more and more as a packaged good. What, exactly, about Palin is authentic?
Update: I’ve thought about this some more. For those of us living in synthetic America, it’s not a big deal to hear about people of means spending a ton of money on clothes. However, these people of means aren’t pretending to be anything other than what they are. Palin and her handlers have worked hard at this “I’m just an average mom” bit, but spending $150,000 in one month on clothes is antithetical to that. There are people in this country, “real” people, the voters the GOP is going after, and they are worrying about whether they can afford to turn on the heat in their homes as the weather gets colder.
But this is the GOP’s pattern. They talk a good game about understanding the problems of average Americans, but then they turn around and do something stupid and ridiculous which proves that they just don’t get it. It may be technically “okay” to spend that much money on Palin, but it appears improper. And considering that they’ve made this election all about appearances, it makes one wonder what they’re thinking. Or if they’re thinking.