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Does First Lady Michelle Obama really *gasp* pay for her own clothes? The AP is reporting that yes, she does, but even so, she's still expected to dress in the appropriate designer goods. And those clothes don't come cheap. While celebrities regularly get access to borrowed clothes right off the runway (sometimes leaving them with nothing to wear by the time the collections hit stores), M'Obama doesn't have any such assistance on a day-to-day basis—the White House doesn't grant First Ladies a clothing budget.
Because she's expected to pay for most of her clothes, M'Obama isn't afraid to hunt for a bargain. Her personal assistant has been open about how she shops for the First Lady's outfits, including "considering the best offered price and buying on discount if discounts are available." Even on special occasions where she might wear a designer gown that she didn't pay for, like the first and second inaugural balls where M'Obama wore gifted Jason Wu gowns, such clothing is considered property of the US government and is subsequently stored in the National Archives after being worn instead of going back into her closet.
M'Obama in Jason Wu at her first inaugural ball. Image via Getty.
The gifting that does occur in M'Obama's wardrobe has been a rather recent phenomena. Usually, first ladies are expected to at least partially pay for even the most extravagant designer dresses. Hillary Clinton wore a $50,000 lace dress designed by Sarah Phillips to the 1993 inaugural ball, and while there is record of the Presidential Inaugural Committee pitching in as well as a discount given from Sarah Phillips' workshop, Clinton probably paid for some of the dress herself. (The Smithsonian's website labeled the dress as "a gift of Hillary Rodham Clinton and the Presidential Inaugural Committee.")
Hillary's $50,000 gown. Image via Getty.
Other first ladies have considered extreme measures to pay for their clothes. The AP reports that Mary Todd Lincoln "racked up tens of thousands of dollars in clothing bills and considered selling manure from the White House grounds to pay them off."
Jacqueline Kennedy in Oleg Cassini. Image via Getty.
Jacqueline Kennedy resorted to asking her father-in-law for financial assistance to help pay for her Oleg Cassini wardrobe in order to "keep the clothes from becoming a political liability for President John Kennedy." Not to be outdone, Nancy Reagan dealt with her financial woes by not always returning borrowed gowns or not always reporting them as gifts.
So, the moral of the story is, everyone loves a good salewire—even Michelle Obama.
· Who pays for first lady's clothes? [MyPlainview.com via the AP]
· Michelle Obama's Carefully-Considered China Tour Outfits [Racked]
· 30 Looks From 2014's White House Correspondents' Dinner [Racked]