Who Pays For First Lady Michelle Obama’s Stunning Wardrobe?

June 3, 2014  |  

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Michelle Obama’s style has fascinated us since she stepped into the political limelight. Not only do her outfits become fodder for the fashion pages, but she has influenced the fashion industry and made a financial impact on the sector. Items she wears quickly become hot sellers. Her mix of off-the-rack pieces with designer items has changed the way we look at fashion.

But who pays for those fashionable outfits?

No, it’s not the taxpayers. And no, she doesn’t borrow gowns from designers. Sometimes Mrs. Obama pays for them herself but she probably isn’t paying full price.

She can certainly afford the designer numbers. The Obamas reported adjusted income of $481,000 for 2013, and assets worth between $1.8 million and $7 million.

“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,” says Joanna Rosholm, press secretary to the First Lady.

Being First Lady, Michelle Obama is expected to dress well, but she doesn’t get a clothing allowance or even a salary.

“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, according to the National First Ladies’ Library. 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,” reports My Plainview.

But Mrs. Obama, like most of us, searches for deals and discounts. And Mrs. Obama can get a significant amount off.

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Mrs. Obama  also keeps costs down by rotating outfits. She “wore the same dress to this year’s Mother’s Day tea that she’d worn to lunch with Katy Perry in October 2012. She often switches around separates, belts and other accessories to give clothes in her wardrobe a fresh look,” says My Plainview.

Other times she gets the clothes for free. Among the clothing donated by designers are Mrs. Obama’s two inaugural gowns made by Jason Wu, who became a fashion star after she wore them. The blue Carolina Herrera gown that Mrs. Obama wore to February ‘s state dinner for French President Francois Hollande and the gold beaded Naeem Khan gown that she donned  to the 2012 Governors Ball now on display at the American Museum of Natural History, were also donated.

Custom gowns can get pricey. Hillary Rodham Clinton’s 1993 inaugural gown by Sarah Phillips was in the range of $50,000.

Obviously Michelle Obama is one savvy shopper.

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