Michelle Obama has figured out a way to make being first lady a ticket to wearing fabulous outfits. The catch is, she can’t keep them.
Here’s how the scheme works, according Mrs. Obama’s spokeswoman, who talked to the Associated Press.
“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,” first lady press secretary, Joanna Rosholm. “They are then stored by the National Archives.”
Other than the price of mothballs, this arrangement doesn’t seem to cost U.S. taxpayers anything. But it does get Michelle fixed up with some superbly swank threads. And it’s a financial benefit to her in that she has to fork over less for her clothes.
According to the Associated Press story:
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.
But should this be considered a gift? How often does one wear, say, a $20,000 designer gown in one’s lifetime? Maybe ten times before either it becomes unfashionable or one grows out of it?
So if she wears it twice as first lady, is that a de facto gift of $4,000?
Among the designers who have “contributed” to the nation’s welfare in this manners are Carolina Herrera, who stitched up the blue gown that Mrs. Obama wore to February ‘s state dinner for French President Francois Hollande, and Naeem Khan, who gave the United States of America, as embodied in Mrs. Obama, a gold beaded gown she wore to the 2012 governors ball.
Also on the list is the magnanimous Jason Wu, who plied Mrs. Obama with two Inaugural gowns. This prompted Michelle to claim some of his generosity for herself:
Mrs. Obama and Wu both were there when the first inaugural gown was presented to the Smithsonian in March 2010. The first lady said in her remarks: “The dress I donated today, made by Jason Wu, is a masterpiece.” But the Smithsonian lists the gown as a “gift of Jason Wu in honor of first lady.”
Alas, it wasn’t quite hers to give.
The practice appears to be an Obama innovation. Laura Bush paid for all her clothes, including her Inaugural gowns. This prompted some recycling:
Mrs. Bush, in her memoir, tells of arriving at a TV studio and noticing a picture on the wall that showed she’d worn the same suit to her last interview there.
“Quickly, I exchanged tops with my press secretary, so that it would seem as if I had more wardrobe variety,” she recalled.
Michelle is also known to command deep discounts from designers eager to have her show off their wares. Or wears.
So thank you, America. You’ve helped Mrs. Obama wow the fashion world, just by being there.