advice from a fake consultant

out-of-the-box thinking about economics, politics, and more... 

Sunday, October 26, 2008

On Dressing For Success, Part Two, Or, We Costume Palin...For 2/3 Off!

When last we met, Gentle Reader, we were talking about more or less $150,000 in clothing and beauty services that had been purchased mostly for Sarah Palin’s use by the Republican National Committee.

Since then, we have learned that John McCain himself once tried to outlaw the very type of contribution that led to this situation, we’ve heard McCain’s campaign offer a very non-maverick-y denial...and we’ve learned that the highest paid member of the McCain campaign staff—the person who presumably has the magic touch needed to turn this thing around—will be working her magic with a makeup brush.

As we discussed yesterday, I think I could have dressed Palin for 1/3 of what the RNC paid. Yesterday we “purchased” five of the outfits I think she needs...and with half the shopping done, we’re $670 over budget.

Can she be dressed for a mere $43,000?
Let’s see if we can pull it off...

Just so you know...the McCain campaign claims most of the clothing in question has never left the campaign plane...and they want us to know the expensive clothes they just bought but never used will be eventually donated to charity... and they still claim they are the ones who can best manage the Federal budget.

If you missed Part are the rules: we are trying to find for Sarah a total of ten outfits. Seven of these outfits will be for “business” use and three are intended for evening wear.

The business outfits are budgeted at $4000 each; the evening wear’s budgeted at $5000 per ensemble. The total cost for all of this: $43,000.

We have identified four of the business choices, and a gorgeous blue metallic evening dress so far; leaving three more business and two more evening costumes to assemble.

And with all that said...may I direct your attention to the runway, for today’s first selection...

This is a truly understated, but nonetheless truly elegant silver wool and cashmere design, the “Wrap Bust Chevron Dress” by Alexander McQueen ($1670, Saks). The banded Empire waist is virtually the only ornamentation on the dress...but that allows us to be a bit flashy with the accessories.

We can be flashy and still save a ton of money by “recycling” the black Jimmy Choo “Patent Pumps” and the silver “Python Original Clutch” by Jalda from yesterday...and with the money we save we can afford to finish the look by picking up the “Punjab Waist Belt”, also by Alexander McQueen, thereby trickling an additional $625 down to the coffers of Saks Fifth Avenue.

Total cost: $2295—and that’s $1705 under budget for this item, $1035 under budget for the entire exercise to this point.

Mr. Blackwell died at the age of 86 this week.
It turns out he really was caught dead in that outfit...

--Seth Meyers, on “Weekend Update”, October 26, 2008

This next selection is entirely taken from a single page at the Saks website...which is kind of cheating, but the combination could not be better.

From Akris Punto, we present the “Wool Jacket” (which, for my money, could use a less utilitarian name), the “Silk Jersey Boatneck Top”, and the “New Carla Wool Pants” ($1290, $295, and $395 each). The pumpkin colored three button cropped jacket and toffee pants (both made of Swiss wool) are comfortably accented by the chestnut colored boatneck top, which mixes silk and wool.

This is another relatively inexpensive set, so let’s splurge a bit on accoutrement.

Something we can’t afford for this story, but the RNC could: the Dior “Beaded Jacket & Duchess Satin Skirt”, an $8095 vision in peacock green satin.

We need a brown bag...and what could be nicer than Fendi’s “Vintage Leather Baguette” in chocolate brown with lots of detail stitching and interchangeable long and short shoulder straps. From Saks, once again...and considering what we saved on the Akris Punto set and the Alexander McQueen dress, the $1950 price is easily justified.

Shoes? How about these dark brown “Patent Leather Mary Janes” from Manolo Blahnik, courtesy of Neiman’s. Simple, elegant, and at $625, surprisingly affordable.

The total: $4555. We ran a bit over on this one...but for the entire project we are still $480 under budget.

Since we already have the brown accessories, let’s really put them to use: check out this spectacular “Brocade Jacket” by Piazza Sempione ($1400, Neiman’s) in cotton, linen, silk, and...polyester. It’s a cropped length, but it has a traditional blazer style with a notched collar and three button front—and it is the perfect match for the “Belted Pant” from Pringle of Scotland (cotton/linen blend, $595, Neiman’s) and Eskandar’s cotton “Revere Blouse” (Bergdorf-Goodman, $370).

The total: $2365...which is $1635 under for the outfit, and $2115 total under budget.

Another item we can’t afford: the amazing silk and viscose “Stained Glass Gown” by Christian Lacroix...$6760, at Neiman’s.

It is entirely possible that Sarah The Vice Presidential Candidate might find herself giving a speech on a warm and rainy day in New Orleans—so to protect that lovely brocade jacket, we need Proenza Schouler’s “Trench Dress”.

Try to picture a lightweight viscose and linen trench coat, cut just above the knee, and you have the idea exactly. We had $2115 available, the jacket is $1975, leaving us still $140 under budget.

"That whole thing is just, bad!
Oh, if people only knew how frugal we are."

--Sarah Palin

The most courageous act is still to think for yourself.

--Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel

We are almost there, with only the final two evening ensembles remaining to select...and we will finish in fine style, I promise.

One of the most complicated mechanical processes I’m aware of is the weaving of jacquard fabrics; and we can observe the amazing results of that process in Caroline Herrera’s wool, silk, and polyester “Floral-Jacquard Jacket & Sheath Dress”. It is a simple bit of construction that uses its long, flat blue surfaces to perfectly show off the elaborate silver weaving.

As with the other outfits, the elegant design and rich fabrics of this jacket and dress make their own statements, which is actually allowing us to save money on jewelry—although, to be fair, that lack of external “bling” requires even more attention to hair styling than most of us often provide.

It is a bit pricey, ($4880, Neiman’s) but this set perfectly mates to the Python clutch from above...and the black Jimmy Choo Patent Pumps also work perfectly for this we are still under budget, the total now being $260 below target.

Ombré is the process of weaving graduated color changes into a fabric, and this effect is presented spectacularly by Herve Leger’s “Allover Sequin Dress”: the navy bodice fades through purple and cranberry and fuscia and pastels, finally finishing in a silver band at the hem. The “allover sequins” make this the perfect dinner dress for a formal State dinner, a fundraising reception at the Washington Hilton...or any time Our Dear Sarah wants to remind Ann Coulter that she’s probably the hearts of the Conservative community.

It’s $2800 at Saks...but if it gives her a chance to have a cocktail dress smackdown with Coulter, it might be well-spent money...especially if, somehow, they could be convinced to appear on ”The Jerry Springer Show” to fight it out, in evening wear, for our amusement.

Obviously the sparkling silver Python clutch is again going to be the perfect choice...and I even found the perfect shoes: from Miu Miu, the “Sequin Pump”. They’re purple, the shimmer like the afternoon sky at “Burning Man”...and at $650, they allow us to finish this project $1810 under budget—which we can use to bolster Palin’s “foreign policy experience” by picking up the tab at the Russian Tea Room.

And with all that said, we come to the end.

And what have we learned?

We have been reminded, once again, that fashion is indeed an art...we have seen the intersection of highly specialized manufacturing techniques and the products they create...but most importantly of all, we were reminded that it is possible to present a candidate in the finest of clothes and accoutrement for roughly $100,000 less than what McCain’s putative minions at the RNC spent—and we were also reminded that you and I are not the ones running around the countryside claiming we know how to balance a budget in our first term while simultaneously claiming most of the clothes were never used and will be donated at a loss.

Which means the biggest lesson we learned today might be this: if you can’t be counted on to handle the purchase of $150,000 worth of clothing, how are we supposed to trust you to manage the purchase of $150 billion worth of currently dead mortgage securities...or military equipment...or prescription drugs for Medicare?

If this big ol’ pile of fashion foolishness is any indication, I’d say we can’t.


jmb said...

An absolute triumph FC and might I say I will be first in line to hire you as my personal shopper when I win the lottery.

Of course I still think that whoever paid for it, Biden will have been also suitably tricked out at reasonable/great expense but no one has bothered/been able to find out about it. Of course maybe he already possessed suitable clothing since he has been in Washington for such a long time.

Once McCain had made his decision/gross error of choosing Sarah Palin he was committed to go all the way, including make her presentable. It was probably money well spent to tell the truth since she has certainly been drawing the crowds and achieved great popularity for the party amongst a certain population. She always look quite well dressed although understatedly so. The image consultant has been worth the money I would say.

By the way you forgot a very important expense. Her glasses. Those are very expensive glasses let me tell you and she probably has more than one pair. You can bet your bottom dollar that these are not the glasses she was sporting six months ago.

Well done FC, you are indeed a budget shopper. I commend you on your frugality.

fake consultant said...

thanks so much for all the fine words...and a couple comments:

i did indeed forget the glasses, which i do now regret, as it would indeed have made the whole thing even better.

that said, i'm not so sure about the "preening" of palin.

her initial appeal was the "hockey mom" brand, which now appears to be well tarnished outside the 25% or so who are the most conservative of today's republicans.

polling data suggests that outside of the republican base she is a bigger drag on the republican's election hopes this year than even mr. bush, the conservative "us news and world report" tells us.

consider the alternative: michelle obama has been able to create the image of a stylish, working mom who wears clothes actual humans can afford.

an example? on jay leno last night she reports she was dressed in clothes from that famous couture designer, j. crew.

it may be that palin would have been much better off with about $135,000 less wardrobe and her image intact.

of course, there's still a week to go, and this is hardly a "game over" situation, so we remain waiting for the judgement of the electorate.

there is an avenue open to palin that is outside electoral politics: she has every potential to take away ann coulter's audience--and possibly make a sizeable dent in rush limbaugh's as well--and i would not rule out a broadcasting future for her if she does not see a clear path to elected office in '12.

jmb said...

Broadcasting? I never thought of that but don't you think that might be a bit of a comedown after being on the presidential ticket?

Well I still have an uncomfortable feeling about this attack on her (probably not her idea at all) wardrobe spending, which never would have happened if she had been a man. Ok, the amount is over the top. But she does look good, while not a fashionista, we can all agree on that.

I think what I have been impressed by is the fact that she never falters in her delivery, she seems to be articulate if spouting rhetoric and so you might be right about the broadcasting idea after all.

I still think you deserve a prize for these two posts.

fake consultant said...

the attack on her wardrobe spending might be more of an issue because she's a woman...but i would suggest that her self-positioning herself as a "hockey mom" who set out to conquer the "elitists" is probably what really caused the story to last beyond a single day's news cycle.

you can get away with a lot...but hypocrisy, in politics, will often catch up to you--and when it does, it hits hard.