It's an all-too-familiar fairy tale: small town girl gets big gig and the clothing to go with it. We see it in Hollywood and in the fashion and magazine publishing businesses all the time. But Sarah Palin's recent run-in with designer merch at high-end emporiums like Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue to the tune of about $150,000 is unacceptable simply because she has spent so much time campaigning against elitist attitudes. And now here she is, crossing the tarmac in a pair of Cole Haan boots, showing up at Ground Zero in what definitely looks like an Akris Punto jacket (the average price of which runs in the $2,000 plus range), and delivering her speech at the Republican convention in a Valentino jacket. Ka-CHING!
Palin's spokesperson, Tracey Schmitt, has dismissed the hoopla surrounding the Republican vice-presidential candidate's shopping sprees (or rather, her stylist's shopping sprees) and added that the clothing would all be donated to charity anyway (at the stroke of midnight). What is a charity going to do with an old Valentino jacket that doesn't have much resale value anyway? And, more importantly, why does a "no-frills" middle class hockey mom from Alaska need to buy designer clothing when there are fantastic facsimiles to be found at one tenth of the price at places like Zara, Ann Taylor, and Banana Republic? Nevermind that the RNC fund is footing the bill.
Of course, a girl can dream. My friend Tom Kizzia, a reporter at the Anchorage Daily News who wrote two major profiles of Palin when she was running for governor, has an 18-year-old daughter who is obsessed by Chanel. Living in Alaska doesn't preclude sophistication. Which leads to my next point: if you're going to make a splash and spend $150,000 of the RNC fund's money, why not go for something a little more remarkable dare I say stylish like a pinstriped Ralph Lauren pantsuit, a spiffy Chanel jacket, or anything by Giorgio Armani? Michelle Obama chose wisely when she picked a floral-printed dress by Thakoon for the convention. Instead Palin opted for bland approximations of what she always wears, a kind of textbook, "safe" Washington insider combo of colorful jacket over black skirt. What a waste.