22 October, 2008

Feminists on Fashion

[updated below]

Had she been a creature of Washington, Palin would have had closet full of suits, unexciting, perhaps, but appropriate. Had she been a former First Lady running for president, whose husband has raked in $109 million in the last 8 years, she could have called Oscar de la Renta, and and had him come for a fitting. He did well with Hillary's jewel-toned pantsuits, (at a few grand a pop?). She might already have collected some of those great Gurhan necklaces, which accentuated Hillary's suits all election season. (Look up for yourself what they cost.) Were she Speaker of the House, and the wealthiest Democratic lawmaker, she could have called Georgio Armani himself — and worn the Pelosi pearls that cost more than the Palin's house.

Instead, she had zero time and no personal fortune. And she faced the terrible hurdle of being young and attractive — the very sort of woman who most desperately needs wardrobe cues to make her look authoritative. If she had had to pay for it herself, she could not have run. The bill would have been ruinous to a genuinely middle class person. So the GOP did what it had to do in order to put a non-rich woman on a national ticket.

I know I sound like such a partisan stooge, but it's a non-story. It really is.

And right now I have a great deal of sympathy for Sarah Palin. Like Sarah, I'm of middle class means (actually, more like borderline lower class) and possessed of a passable sense of style/fashion while still preferring comfort over all else whenever possible.

I've spent the last week making sartorial preparations for attendance at a charity fundraiser hosted by some very VIPs, and it feels an awful lot like what it must have been for her to look at her wardrobe after she was selected and realize that 95% of it was not up to supporting the task ahead of her.

I have spent literally days scouring places like Loehmann's, Nordstrom Rack and Saks Outlet, with the certainty that I must have a dead-accurate eye for classic style and clearance tags if I hope to even begin to fade into the background--forget "fitting in," my goal simply needs to be not to draw attention to the fact that the retail cost of my entire outfit for the event will pale in comparison to a single ticket for the donors in attendance. And as any stylish woman will tell you, what makes or breaks your dress is what you wear under it (and quality costs), so you might as well line the dress with bills by the time it's all over. And did I mention shoes... and jewelry that doesn't scream "Fake!!!" is a vital part of the package, too?

Fortunately, it's only one evening. Were I to have to meet the standard Sarah Palin does on a daily basis, I'd need $150,000 and the assistance of expensive experts, too.

It's sad that bright, dynamic, up-and-coming women today need a wardrobe the cost of a moderately-sized house in order to be taken seriously by a certain segment of society, but there it is...


Unless we want to move on to discussion of what would've happened she hadn't had a $150,000 wardrobe upgrade, and the related discussion of the various double-standards that so-called "progressive, educated and enlightened" people still blindly display.

UPDATE: Last two links added. The first link in the paragraph above reminded me of another aspect of this... I really hate the thought of how much money I'm spending for a couple hours' worth of wardrobe, but it is the "uniform" required for the work I will be doing--in this case, that work is representing a charity to some people who can have a significant impact on its future and capacity to meet its mission. Were I to not dress to the minimum uniform standards, it would be a distraction and an impediment to doing my job. Ditto for Palin, as much as it grates against Republican middle class instincts and values to spend so much on simply clothing oneself.