Does Ann Romney wear her $990 designer shirt while driving one of her two Cadillacs?
The very wealthy Mitt and Ann Romney have often been painted as out of touch with average Americans. Ann’s pricey shirt will not help her husband change those perceptions, no matter how many Laundromat photo ops are on the campaign’s daily itinerary.
On Tuesday Ann wore a colorful silk T-shirt with a large bird print by Reed Krakoff during an interview with her and her husband on CBS’s “This Morning.” Fashion blogs quickly tracked down the “The Reed Audubon Silk Shirt” and noted the whopping price tag.
A representative of the fashion house told ABC News that the shirt is off-the-rack and it had not been a gift to Ann Romney from Krakoff.
“We had nothing to do with it,” the Krakoff rep said. “She must have bought it from Saks or Bergdorf’s. We definitely didn’t send it to her.”
The rep added: “It's 100 percent a Reed Krakoff shirt, but we 100 percent didn't send it to her. We don't get involved politically.”
Ann Romney’s wardrobe choice could haunt the campaign indefinitely. If it were a solid color, the designer tee might have been forgotten after awhile. But the yellow bird print is unique enough to become emblematic of wealth that most Americans could only wish to have.
President Obama’s allies have downplayed Ann Romney’s wardrobe choice. Bill Burton, former deputy press secretary under Obama, said, “I’m of the view that Ann Romney should be off-limits,” Burton said. “…I remember in 2007 and 2008 when people would go after Mrs. Obama. I was enraged about it. Because you never know if they even signed up for this willingly. They may just be supportive and along for the ride.”
The Obama campaign may be playing nice, but that doesn’t mean the American people will. Will the $990 T-shirt remind people of past presidential faux pas, such as John McCain’s confusion in 2008 about how many houses he owned?
McCain’s daughter Meghan, an MSNBC contributor, said Wednesday night on host Lawrence O’Donnell’s “The Last Word,” that Ann should be a bit more careful in her choices.
“She needs to be a little more cognizant of the message she’s trying to put out, just given the economic recession that we’re in and everything that’s going on,” Meghan McCain said.
Some Americans might be thinking that the $1,000 spent on one shirt could help them out with a house payment or buy necessities at Walmart. Others are counting exactly how many T-shirts that amount would buy at Target, where first lady Michelle Obama said she often shops.
Certainly, Michelle Obama has been criticized for her wardrobe choices, from expensive sneakers to designer ball gowns at state dinners. Should she have worn those $540 sneakers to a food bank last year? Hmmm, no.
In any political campaign, every detail must be taken into consideration, especially when the candidate is already battling an image of a great affluence in a shaky economy. Alone, Ann Romney’s wardrobe faux pas is not monumental. But combined with previous campaign mistakes that have reinforced the Romneys’ image as wealthy patricians, it squeals of tone deafness.
Last week, Mitt Romney encouraged Ohio students to borrow from their parents to start a business. He used the Jimmy John sandwich chain founder, Jimmy John Liautaud, as an example. Liautaud had borrowed $25,000 from his father in order to get his first restaurant off the ground.
How many people have that kind of money lying around to invest in their kid’s start-up?
Ann Romney’s cadillacs got a mention in February, when Mitt said at an event in Detroit that his wife drives “a couple” of the luxury cars.
Last December, Romney made a $10,000 bet with Texas Governor Rick Perry over a disagreement on health care policy. What a high roller that Romney is. Most Americans would make a $5 bet while enjoying a $2 Pabst Blue Ribbon, Mitt.
I’ve written before that the Romneys shouldn’t be ashamed of their wealth. It’s America, after all. Personally, I’d like to own that Krakoff shirt to wear this weekend to an event. But when a campaign is trying to get down to the common folk level, maybe it’s time to buy something off the rack at a lower-end store.
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