Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Clothes Horses

Apparently the clothes of the Palin family have cost the RNC more than $150,000 this campaign season. That's a lot of money, of course, a lot, but then the RNC is dressing a family of seven for public appearances. This still comes to more than $20,000 per head, assuming that the money was divided equally between all family members' clothes.

Most of it is probably spent on Sarah Palin's wardrobe. It's possible to view this little item from two different angles, one being the usual one which points out that large amounts of money have been spent on her clothes. She's a clothes horse! Also, the money spent seems exorbitantly high and such uses of donors' money questionable.

The other angle that opens up for us is to think about the likely clothes costs of male and female politicians. If I was running for a nationwide political office in this country, what would I need to wear? My usual scales would be totally insufficient and so would my old dog-walking or house painting outfits. I'd need to wear suits, with all the accessories to those. OK. So do men need to wear suits, too.

But here's the difference: We don't expect male politicians to wear a different suit every time they are photographed. We pretty much do expect female politicians to do just that, and the suits must be different enough from each other to photograph as "different." That means not just quite a few suits but also matching shoes, tops, bags and so on. All that adds up to a lot more than, say, five dark suits for a guy with the shirts and ties to match. You can probably get away with just a few pairs of shoes, too.

This rule is not a rigid one. I think it would be possible for a woman politician to campaign in just a handful of dark suits, just like the men do. But she'd be taken to task on all those fashion pages for her poor fashion sense. Someone would write an article about her boring suits. Someone else would ask if she's denying her essential femininity in the way she dresses or if she really would like to be a guy.

The hair and the face. That's where the real cost differences open up, because a male hairstyle on a woman is certainly interpreted as "political," and the female hairstyles cost a lot more in upkeep. Make-up can cost almost as much as you wish to sink into your face.

I wonder if anyone has done a study of the clothing costs of politicians. You know, the kind of "basic package" needed to start campaigning. My guess is that the cost of such a basic package is higher for women than for men.

Oh, I almost forgot. There's a third angle to this study, too, and that is to look at other types of candidate expenses. Things like dining out and such. Might be well worth doing, for those who need to know where the money goes.