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Some inauguration viewers were fascinated by the historical tidbit that President Barack Obama took the oath of office on Abraham Lincoln’s Bible.
Others were more interested in the J. Crew sage green leather gloves that Michelle Obama wore to hold the Bible for her husband — not to mention the pale pink and royal blue wool coats the Obamas’ daughters wore, also from J. Crew.
Indeed, a lot of viewers apparently decided that they must own the gloves and coats themselves. In an interview with my colleague Liz Robbins at The Caucus blog, Jenna Lyons of J. Crew said, “It’s an incredible validation to have the First Family like what you’re doing.”
Maybe too much of a validation.
By Tuesday afternoon, the Web page on J. Crew’s site that features women’s gloves had crashed. By Wednesday morning, the whole women’s section of the site had crashed. Later in the day, the entire site was down, with a note that said, “Stay tuned…Sorry, we’re experiencing some technical difficulties right now (even the best sites aren’t perfect). Check back with us in a little while.”
J. Crew’s Web site joins the many media sites that could not keep up with the surge of inauguration Web traffic. Many of the sites that promised to stream live video of the inauguration struggled or failed to provide a steady stream because of the influx of traffic.
Early Tuesday, J. Crew, which designed the children’s coats and velvet ribbon belts especially for the Obama girls, posted a note — “Congratulations to the first family” — on its home page.
Later, the company added another note — “Yes, they wore Crewcuts” — with a link to shop the brand’s Crewcuts children’s collection.
The outfits were designed exclusively for the Obamas and are not available from J. Crew, though “highlights” from the inaugural outfits may appear in the fall 2009 collection, the company said. Still, all that promotion apparently swamped the site.
“It’s just the sheer number of users coming on,” said Matthew Poepsel, vice president of performance strategy at Gomez, a firm that tracks Web site performance. “It can swamp an application’s infrastructure and lead to poor user experience at exactly the wrong time.”
If a Web company expects a surge in traffic, it can prepare by building up capacity, Mr. Poepsel said. If the traffic is unexpected, though, it can be hard to fix the problem after the fact. More and more often, “with the pace of the Web and how information gets out, no one can predict when this will happen,” he said.
Of all the brands the Obamas wore, J. Crew’s site showed the most impact. But other brands also got some benefit.
Michelle Obama’s day and evening dresses were the talk of the town, and on Tuesday, the names of the designers of those dresses, Isabel Toledo and Jason Wu, were the 70th- and 11th-most-searched terms on Google, according to Google Trends. On Wednesday, though, Isabel Toledo fell off the list and Jason Wu had sunk to 55, while J. Crew came in at 33. (Mr. Wu’s Web site and the site of Ikram, the Chicago boutique where Mrs. Obama shops, appear to be having no troubles.)
Perhaps fans of the Obamas’ style are seeking a more affordable way to imitate the new first family. “Michelle Obama has proved that high fashion can be affordable,” J. Crew said in a statement.
According to Carl Cameron of Fox News – insiders at the Mccain camp stated that Palin wasn’t aware that Africa was a continent, as she believed Africa was a country. Itappears Palin did not know anything about the NAFTA trade agreement – that she would not prepare for interviews like the now famous Katie Couric –
If Palin thought that Africa was a country – then it would make sense that one could get foreign policy experience – by merely being close to – or as she put it being able to see Russia from her state –
There were some who said that – it wasn’t that Palin simply made mistakes during he interviews – that what was worst is that she didn’t understand the question.
One for Palin ~ she should keep the clothes ~ if she has to pay taxes on them fine ~ if she can’t afford it ~ one of those donors should folk it up for her!
The Republican National Committee’s $150,000 investment in Sarah Palin’s wardrobe has prompted some teeth gnashing among the party’s big donors about its political sensibility and a feisty debate among campaign finance specialists about its legality.
“As a Republican Eagle and a maxed-out contributor to McCain’s general campaign, I’d like my money back – he can still have my vote,” complained one irate donor on Tuesday.
“I’m not one who says a candidate shouldn’t wear fine clothes,” he added. “I’d just like to think they were successful enough in the private sector to have afforded their wardrobe with their own money, not the party’s or the campaign’s, which is really our money as contributors.”
Another big donor was sympathetic to the effort, but critical of the execution.
The Alaska governor was tapped by Arizona Sen. John McCain to become his vice presidential running mate just days before the Republican National Convention in Minnesota, the donor noted.
Given the short notice and the Palins’ relatively modest means, “she could probably not go into her closet at home in Alaska to come up with a wardrobe appropriate for her status as a vice presidential candidate,” he said.
“Having said that, $150K is big money,” he added. “It kind of makes it worth running. Even if you lose, you’ve got a whole new closet.”
Other donors, in other e-mails and interviews, said the costs were worth the investment.
Palin has proven to be a major draw at campaign rallies, and her strong performances and appearance provides a polished and professional image on television, one donor noted.
In addition, he suggested, the bad press only means the GOP base will unite even further behind the McCain-Palin ticket.
As Republican donors absorbed the news, the consensus among several prominent Washington-based attorneys was that the purchases were legal, albeit in a fuzzy area of the law.
Campaign finance laws prohibit candidates from spending donor cash to their authorized personal campaign committee on costs “that would exist irrespective of the candidate’s election campaign,” including clothing, vacations and gym memberships.
But the law does not prohibit such expenditures by party committees, and Congress has killed legislation to expand the personal use ban to those and other types of political committees.
The fuzzy part in the Palin case is that the RNC used money from an account designated for “coordinated,” or shared, expenditures with the McCain-Palin candidate account.
The Federal Election Commission, which interprets federal campaign finance laws, has never been asked to address this issue. And legal experts say the key question is: From which side of the joint account was the money drawn?
Noting that the expenses were reported by the RNC and not the McCain-Obama campaign, Ken Gross, a law partner at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom who advises corporations on campaign finance laws, concluded: “The bottom line is that this is party committee money. These are not campaign funds.”
Wiley Rein lawyer Jan Baran, an adviser to several Republican candidates and committees, agreed with Gross, but added that the Palins may still be forced to comply with tax laws.
“The receipt of goods and services by the taxpayer usually constitutes reportable ‘income’,” Baran said. Consequently, Palin may have to declare the value of the fashion gifts as income and pay taxes on it.
“She might be able to offset some of the taxes by donating the items to charity after the campaign, Baran said, “although she will only be able to deduct the fair market value at that time.”
The campaign said Monday that Palin intends to donate the clothes to charity after the election.
The Republican National Committee appears to have spent more than $150,000 to clothe and accessorize vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin and her family since her surprise pick by John McCain in late August.
According to financial disclosure records, the accessorizing began in early September and included bills from Saks Fifth Avenue in St. Louis and New York for a combined $49,425.74.
The records also document a couple of big-time shopping trips to Neiman Marcus in Minneapolis, including one $75,062.63 spree in early September.
The RNC also spent $4,716.49 on hair and makeup through September after reporting no such costs in August.
Politico asked the McCain campaign for comment, explicitly noting the $150,000 in expenses for department store shopping and makeup consultation that were incurred immediately after Palin’s announcement. Pre-September reports do not include similar costs.
Spokeswoman Maria Comella declined to answer specific questions about the expenditures, including whether it was necessary to spend that much and whether it amounted to one early investment in Palin or if shopping for the vice presidential nominee was ongoing.
“The campaign does not comment on strategic decisions regarding how financial resources available to the campaign are spent,” she said.
The business of primping and dressing on the campaign trail has become fraught with political risk in recent years as voters increasingly see an elite Washington out of touch with their values and lifestyles.
In 2000, Democrat Al Gore took heat for changing his clothing hues. And in 2006, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) was ribbed for two hair styling sessions that cost about $3,000.
Then, there was Democrat John Edwards’ $400 hair cuts in 2007 and Republican McCain’s $520 black leather Ferragamo shoes this year.
A review of similar records for the campaign of Democrat Barack Obama and the Democratic National Committee turned up no similar spending.
But all the spending by other candidates pales in comparison to the GOP outlay for the Alaska governor whose expensive, designer outfits have been the topic of fashion pages and magazines.
What hasn’t been apparent is where the clothes came from – her closet back in Wasilla or from the campaign coffers in Washington.
The answer can be found inside the RNC’s September monthly financial disclosure report under “itemized coordinated expenditures.”
It’s a report that typically records expenses for direct mail, telephone calls and advertising. Those expenses do show up, but the report also has a new category of spending: “campaign accessories.”
September payments were also made to Barney’s New York ($789.72) and Bloomingdale’s New York ($5,102.71).
Macy’s in Minneapolis, another store fortunate enough to be situated in the Twin Cities that hosted last summer’s Republican National Convention, received three separate payments totaling $9,447.71.
The entries also show a few purchases at Pacifier, a top notch baby store, and Steiniauf & Stroller Inc., suggesting $295 was spent to accommodate the littlest Palin to join the campaign trail.
An additional $4,902.45 was spent at Atelier, a high-class shopping destination for men.