John Sununu is a former New Hampshire governor, White House chief of staff and currently a fashionista.
It seems an unlikely role, but Sununu, the GOP attack dog, placed himself in that role this week.
He’s questioned that the Tracy Reese dress that first lady Michelle Obama wore for her Tuesday night speech in Charlotte cost only $350. He alleged on a conference call to reporters on Wednesday that the Obama camp was telling a host of lies including the dress’s price.
“Somehow I don’t think that’s the truth either,” he said, regarding the dress.
Oh, Mr. Sununu, you should always stay far away from any fashion debate. It simply isn't your cup of tea. Stick with Medicare.
Various fashion Web sites suggest similar Tracy Reese dresses cost between $350 to $600. Reese has said the dress was a custom creation and that she sent several to Michelle Obama. Reese had no idea until Obama walked on the stage that she had picked that particular one. Obama paired the dress with a pair of J. Crew pink pumps and a grey-lilac nail polish called “Vogue” by Artistic Nail Design. (Women throughout the land are trying to find that shade of polish.)
Reese said on Thursday’s “TODAY” show that Obama’s dress will also be available to buyers very soon.
“It was something that we are planning for later so we are trying to rush it through the cycle so more people can get their hands on it sooner," Reese said.
She added the retail price is “under $500.”
The Oscar de la Renta red shirtdress that Ann Romney wore for her convention speech last week in Tampa has been priced at between $1,990 and $2,490.
For style novices (and Sununu is very likely one), here’s a little Fashion 101 history.
A Michigan native, Reese, 48, is a self-made African-American businesswoman who specializes in women's ready-to-wear clothing and accessories. Obama has often worn Reese’s designs, according to the Web site Mrs-O.com, which documents everything the first lady wears.
Reese told The New York Times on the occasion of her store’s fifth anniversary, “We love pretty, we like beautiful, flattering, color! That’s what people come here for. There was a moment when big stores weren’t into that but our customer always was, and she was coming here.”
Oscar de la Renta is really like the Bill Clinton of the fashion world. An icon, he doesn’t need an introduction, but here are a few tidbits on the man in case Sununu needs to drop it into conversation later at the country club.
Born in the Dominican Republic, de la Renta, 80, has designed for decades. First Lady Jackie Kennedy loved de la Renta, and he created many of her signature gowns. Betty Ford, Nancy Reagan and Laura Bush, too, wore his dresses for White House occasions, and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton often wears pantsuits designed by him.
De la Renta has criticized Michelle Obama in the past. He was unhappy when she wore a dress by Alexander McQueen, a late British designer whose brand continues, to a state dinner for Chinese president Hu Jintao earlier this year.
“My understanding is that the visit was to promote American-Chinese trade — American products in China and Chinese products in America. Why do you wear European clothes?” he said.
Given that history, many people felt Romney’s choice of de la Renta last week was in itself a diss at Michelle Obama. There’s nothing like a fashion catfight to get the election season jump-started, and Sununu had to jump right into the fray.
Of course, in the midst of a presidential election, we shouldn’t be talking fashion at all even though it is Fashion Week in New York City. (Will Sununu attend to check out some price tags?) I can’t help but wonder how much Sununu’s suits cost?
It would be nice if, for instance, the discussion shifted from what Obama was wearing to what she was saying while wearing her Tracy Reese dress.
For example, according to the Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota, Obama’s Tuesday night speech was written at a 12th grade level. That’s the highest in history for a first lady’s speech. Ann Romney’s speech was written at a fifth grade level, the lowest in history.
Let’s talk about that, shall we, Mr. Sununu?
Suzi Parker is an Arkansas-based political and cultural journalist and author of “Sex in the South: Unbuckling the Bible Belt.” Follow her on Twitter at @SuziParker