May 4 2012
Note to Ann Romney: You are a lovely woman. Do not wear $900 blouses on TV. I have no idea what your shirt looked like, or what show you were on. But I have read the price of it, and the “meaning” of that price, too many times in 24 hours.
Get a personal shopper and go to a mid range department store – or Talbots, Ann Taylor or the sportswear floor at Saks if you must, and buy some “bridgewear” outfits. Moderate. Not dirt cheap. But not the sort of thing you are used to. You don’t need to be seen at Target – no one would believe it anyway. But take a lesson from the new Duchess of Cambridge, who has been criticized by high end British shoe designers for wearing “High Street pumps” that aren’t “princessy” enough. Working class Brits love her for it. Good politics employs symbols to bridge economic gaps and reinforce the message of empathy that a smart First Lady wishes to convey.
And really, why would you want more of this silly, bitchy squabble. As you surely know, every single thing you do, say and wear will be dissected by a media with claws out for signs that you are wealthy and out of touch. You are wealthy. This exercise – shopping on a budget for clothes that a working professional woman would wear if she had to pay her own way on a solid, but not “I can do anything I want” income, will actually put you in better touch. And you can still have things altered.
If you want concrete guidelines, take a look at this site. The average household income in the U.S. in 2011 was $63,000, for a household of 2.5 people. The average clothing expenditure in that theoretical, average, swing voter household, was $1881. The author thinks that was high. Now you see why $900 on a blouse is a problem?
In an era where everyone but the very rich has had to cut back, and even the GOP base (not the high end donors – the rest of us) are shopping down a couple of notches from where we may have spent money a decade ago, these things rankle voters. People remember that Michelle Obama wore $540 Lanvin sneakers to the opening of a food pantry for the homeless. People know she is a clothes horse, and a glutton for swell vacations that cost homebound taxpayers big bucks. These $2700 sweater sets -- well, she gets away with them. In fact, most Democrats get away with this stuff. Republicans never do. But even for her it registers as gauche nouveau riche indulgence, at a moment when most Americans feel pretty nouveau poor.
A classy dame such as yourself will surely empathize, and convey compassion and graciousness by small actions and large.