*Ever wonder how Michelle Obama is able to make an affordable fashion statement with her stylish wardrobe?
First, let’s cut to the chase. For all the haters: the taxpayers are NOT footing the bill.
Other than that, the answer is as classified as a covert military operation overseas. Although first ladies are expected to dress well, the Associated Press reports they don’t receive a clothing allowance or a salary to help pay for their clothing.
In its quest to find out who pays for Mrs. Obama’s wardrobe, the news organization referenced the adjusted income for the Obamas last year, which amounted to $481,000. Assets totaled $1.8 million to $7 million. In addition the AP mentions that Mrs. Obama (or rather her personal aide) looks for clothing discounts.
A complete breakdown of the situation comes courtesy of Joanna Rosholm, press secretary to the first lady, who admitted, “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,” she told the AP.
Donated clothing worn by Mrs. Obama includes her two Jason Wu inaugural gowns, a blue Carolina Herrera gown worn to February ‘s state dinner for French President Francois Hollande and a gold beaded Naeem Khan gown that was worn to the 2012 governors ball. Both gowns are currently on display at the American Museum of Natural History.
The first lady’s office had no comment on whether the couture gowns worn by Mrs. Obama for her six other White House state dinners also were donated, the AP mentioned while stating how the office would not say how many gowns have been donated for other big events the first lady is expected to dress up for, such as the annual Kennedy Center Honors ceremonies, governors’ dinners and White House correspondents’ dinners.
In regards to finding affordable wares for Mrs. Obama, Anita McBride, chief of staff to Laura Bush during her time as first lady, gave credit to the Obama White House for working to find a cost-saving way to “keep Mrs. Obama in all those incredible clothes and to have the use of them not once but multiple times.”
The AP also mentioned the working relationship between lawyers who served in the Obama and Bush White Houses and the first lady’s office to “ensure that arrangements with designers didn’t run afoul of ethics rules designed to guard against conflicts of interest and questionable quid pro quos.”
More insight into the selection of Mrs. Obama’s clothes was made known in a 2011 Washington Post story about Mrs. Obama’s personal assistant, Meredith Koop. In the story, the first lady’s office said Koop acted on Mrs. Obama’s behalf “in arranging for purchases, including considering the best offered price and buying on discount if discounts are available.”
Although they didn’t provide more details, the first lady’s office stated that Koop’s methods are still practiced today.
Adding to the mystery is the silence of several designers who provided clothes for Mrs. Obama. According to the AP, they declined to discuss their arrangements with the first lady’s office. Nevertheless, it’s not totally out of the question to think that designers are willing to hook up the first lady.
Former White House lawyers reveal to the AP that “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.”