The shirt, but not Ann. (Fernanda Calfat/GETTY IMAGES)

Ann Romney has been coming under fire for wearing a $990 Reed Krakoff t-shirt on the air recently. Never mind that Reed Krakoff sounds like a rejected Hunger Games character. This is a Serious National Issue.

My biggest objection to the shirt is that it looked like a disembodied fish-bird was squinting at you off Ann Romney’s right shoulder. That is a nightmarish vision with which I would as soon not contend. That someone would pay this amount of money so that a disgruntled yellow creature could give TV audiences the stink-eye is the sort of thing that makes even the staunchest Reaganian rethink his stance on trickle-down economics.

I think the best way to wear this t-shirt is to hire someone to explain that Ann bought it so as to create as many jobs as possible. “The t-shirt,” the spokesman could note, “is an all-American, versatile article of clothing worn by plebeians and hoi polloi everywhere.” (This is Romney-ese for “Hey, lots of people wear t-shirts!”) Then he could go on to point out all the jobs that were created by the shirt, for instance:

-the guy hired by Reed Krakoff to anger and alarm the fish-bird in order to give it its distinctive expression

-the guy who shouts “Release the Krakoff” every time the designer comes out with another shirt

-healthcare and full benefits packages for both those guys

-Reed Krakoff

-linens manufacturers




-someone who burns $90 every time one of these shirts is produced, just to bring the total cost up to $990

-Anna Wintour

-mainstream media types who get to be indignant about the shirt

-someone to explain to me how the garment industry works and whether or not it includes gaffers

I should qualify this by saying that I am one of those people whose every outfit can be explained by the phrase, “I lost a bet.” If you handed me a $1000 t-shirt, I would first laugh hysterically, and then I would probably not wear it, on the grounds that a $990 t-shirt was the moral equivalent of a $5000 drawing of a hand-turkey. I just don’t understand how they put that much money into it. Then I would sell it, because, hey, imagine how much coffee that would buy!

But when can you really wear a $990 t-shirt?

Possibly if you are on your way to a Grey Pouponed T-Shirt Contest, where instead of soaking the contestants (water guns, after all, are not allowed at the GOP convention), you smear them with upscale mustard until the outlines of their bodies become visible? That is the only thing that springs to mind. Most t-shirt contexts are informal. You can wipe your hands on them.

Absolutely not on the campaign trail, where every single sartorial choice made by anyone with a double-X chromosome is scrutinized and gloated over by the commentariat. In general, a t-shirt is an article of clothing that is either plain or has some text or an image on it that implies that you would be a fun person to talk to. True, Ann deserves some credit for forswearing the usual wardrobe of the Conservative Woman on the Trail, the red single-breasted power suit. But this might be a little too far in the opposite direction, more Surrealist Indigestion Dream than GOP couture. (This is probably more an indication of how little I know about fashion; when you really come down to it, most couture resembles Surrealist Indigestion Dreams.)

Women’s appearance, in politics, always comes under scrutiny. If Ann had showed up in a $9.90 tee instead of one with the decimal point moved two places to the right, everyone would still have been passing remarks. If you look too nice, people worry that they cannot afford what you are wearing. If you don’t look nearly nice enough, people no longer hire you for speaking gigs. It’s a fine line.

On the whole, my biggest objection to the tee is that the staring shoulder-eye gave me the heebies. The price tag was only the second-most frightening thing about it.