Sunday, May 27, 2018
News Roundup

No, you didn't pay for Michelle Obama's gowns

Michelle Obama's fashionable clothing has become something of a given in her five-plus years as first lady. Yet her wardrobe still is the subject of endless public fascination and one long-simmering question: Who pays for those incredible outfits?

It's no small matter. Her high-low fashion choices mix everyday, off-the-rack fare with custom creations from top designers whose gowns can run into five figures.

In recent weeks, Obama has turned heads with a forest-green Naeem Khan dress at the opening of a new costume gallery at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art. She shimmered in a silver Marchesa gown at the White House Correspondents' Association Dinner. And her flowered shirtdress for a Mother's Day tea at the White House (recycled from an earlier event) hit the just right note for an audience of military moms.

It takes money to pull that off, month after month. Those three dresses by themselves could add up to more than $15,000 retail, not to mention accessories such as shoes and jewelry.

Is it the taxpayers who foot the bill? No. (Despite what critics say.)

Is it Michelle Obama? Usually, but not always.

Does she pay full price? Not likely.

Does she ever borrow gowns from designers? No.

The financing of the first lady's wardrobe is something the Obama White House is loath to discuss. It's a subject that has bedeviled presidents and their wives for centuries. First ladies are expected to dress well, but the job doesn't come with a clothing allowance or a salary.

Jacqueline Kennedy's father-in-law stepped in to finance her Oleg Cassini wardrobe to keep clothes from becoming a political liability for President John Kennedy. Nancy Reagan got grief for borrowing designer gowns and not always returning them or reporting them as gifts. Laura Bush, in her memoir, said she was "amazed by the sheer number of designer clothes that I was expected to buy" as first lady.

How does Michelle Obama, a fashion icon with far more expensive tastes than Laura Bush, swing it?

For starters, the Obamas reported adjusted income of $481,000 last year, and assets worth $1.8 million to $7 million. And like most people, Michelle Obama looks for discounts.

And, for big events, the first lady has an option not available to every fashionista.

Here's how Joanna Rosholm, press secretary to the first lady, explains it: "Mrs. Obama pays for her clothing. 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. They are then stored by the National Archives."

That saves Obama considerable money, although the White House refused to say how often the first lady wears donated clothes. The White House did say that the first lady doesn't borrow any clothing and, for the most part, buys her own clothes.

The clothing donated by designers includes Obama's two inaugural gowns made by Jason Wu, a lesser-known designer before Obama turned him into a star in the fashion firmament. Wu declined to discuss how he works with the first lady.

Obama and Wu both were there when the first inaugural gown was presented to the Smithsonian in 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" Michelle Obama, making clear it came from him.

Wearing donated gowns represents a change in practice from the Bush administration. Anita McBride, chief of staff to Laura Bush during her time as first lady, said Bush paid for all her clothes, including her two inaugural gowns.

McBride credits the Obama White House with finding a cost-saving way to "keep Mrs. Obama in all those incredible clothes."

There are questions about how much Obama pays for those clothes she purchases. In a 2011 Washington Post story about her personal assistant, Meredith Koop, the first lady's office said Koop acted on Obama's behalf "in arranging for purchases, including considering the best offered price and buying on discount if discounts are available."

Several designers who have provided clothes for Obama declined to discuss their arrangements. But given the prestige that comes with dressing a first lady, it's widely thought that designers are eager to cut her a break. Former White House lawyers said any discounts provided to the first lady would have to be in line with what designers offer other top customers to avoid being considered gifts.

Paco Underhill, author of What Women Want: The Science of Female Shopping, said the markups on designer clothes are "astronomical" — and the discounts can be steep as well. "Some of the routine discounts that people ask for are 40 percent off," he said. "Whether they get it is subject to somebody's discretion."

Comments
RFK’s son: There was 2nd shooter

RFK’s son: There was 2nd shooter

Los Angeles Times (TNS)As the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Sen. Robert F. Kennedy approaches, conspiracy theories still abound.The latest to back the theory of a second gunman is the senator’s son Robert F. Kennedy Jr.Sirhan B. Sirhan, a ...
Updated: 6 minutes ago
Rays bats come alive with six-run rally to beat Orioles 8-3

Rays bats come alive with six-run rally to beat Orioles 8-3

ST. PETERSBURG — If you think the Rays are holding their pitching staff together with baling wire, duct tape and an overbooked shuttle to Triple-A Durham, a bigger story might be how their bats keep producing runs no matter who is swinging them...
Updated: 15 minutes ago
Visa woes have summer businesses hiring Puerto Ricans

Visa woes have summer businesses hiring Puerto Ricans

PHIPPSBURG, Maine — Frustrated by red tape and visa limits on foreign workers, tourism businesses from Maine to Missouri are turning to Puerto Ricans who are fleeing a shattered economy and devastation caused by Hurricane Maria. Bob Smith, owner of S...
Updated: 29 minutes ago
Troopers looking for driver in New Port Richey fatal hit-and-run

Troopers looking for driver in New Port Richey fatal hit-and-run

NEW PORT RICHEYDriver surrenders after crash that kills bicyclistThe driver Florida Highway Patrol troopers say struck and killed a bicyclist then drove from the scene turned herself in Sunday afternoon.Shanna Marie Rampino surrendered a 2000 Toyota ...
Updated: 29 minutes ago
A solemn display

A solemn display

Associated PressVisitors to Boston Commons in Boston last week pass 37,000 American flags planted to honor every Massachusetts resident killed in war dating to the Revolutionary War. The "flag garden" idea on Memorial Day started in Boston about a de...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Former President George H.W. Bush hospitalized in Maine

Former President George H.W. Bush hospitalized in Maine

BIDDEFORD, Maine — A spokesman for former President George H.W. Bush says the 93-year-old was experiencing low blood pressure and has been hospitalized. Spokesman Jim McGrath tweeted just after 2 p.m. Sunday that Bush will likely remain in the hospit...
Updated: 4 hours ago
None injured in Trinity rehab center fire

None injured in Trinity rehab center fire

TRINITY — No one was hurt Sunday morning after a fire broke out at a rehabilitation center.According to Pasco County Fire Rescue, Trinity Regional Rehab Center at 2144 Welbilt Blvd. is running on generator power after the blaze broke out about 10:30 ...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Part of Tampa’s Bayshore Boulevard closed through at least 5 p.m.

Part of Tampa’s Bayshore Boulevard closed through at least 5 p.m.

Both southbound lanes of Bayshore Boulevard between W. Barcelona and W. Rubideaux streets are closed while the Tampa Water Department repairs a water main break.The repair and roadway restoration work is expected to be completed by 5 p.m. Sunday but ...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Meteorologists are calling Alberto a ‘subtropical storm.’ What the heck is that?

Meteorologists are calling Alberto a ‘subtropical storm.’ What the heck is that?

We’re all waking up to the impacts of Alberto: dreary rain, gusty wind, the reluctant change of Memorial Day plans.But while the effects are routine for storm-weathering Floridians, the category of storm Alberto falls into is a little less familiar. ...
Updated: 5 hours ago

Temple Terrace applauds progress on downtown project

TEMPLE TERRACE — A round of applause from the audience followed the recent vote by the Temple Terrace City Council to negotiate a contract with a company that plans to build and manage luxury apartments in the long-idle downtown redevelopment area.Th...
Updated: 7 hours ago