How much does it cost to dress like a governor’s wife?

In the case of Virginia’s Maureen McDonnell, about $17,000. The latest headache for the embattled first lady comes from reports that she went on spending sprees (thanks to her husband’s campaign, inaugural committee and PAC) to upgrade her image.

Maureen McDonnell in a purple suit at the State of the Commonwealth Address in 2010. (Steve Hebler/AP Photo)

But aside from the creative bookkeeping, it’s an old lament: a big new job and nothing to wear! The former Redskins cheerleader complained that she didn’t have the right clothes for the public appearances, official travel and constant photo-ops.

So she hit Nordstrom, Macy’s, Saks Fifth Avenue, Lord & Taylor and Ann Taylor, spending $6,000 for her 2010 inauguration outfits and an additional $4,000 to dress for a California promotional trip and a 2012 governor’s mansion gala. (Unclear exactly how she spent the other $7,000.)

McDonnell unveiled her official portrait of herself in her inaugural gown last November. (Laura Vozzella/TWP)

The numbers “make perfect sense to me,” said Christina Logothetis, founder of Confident Persona. The political-image consultant helps candidates and spouses find the right clothes, colors and professional look for appearances, photos and TV. McDonnell’s tally didn’t surprise her: Logothetis estimated that a typical first-time first lady, starting from scratch, would rack up $10,000 in charges — not even counting good jewelry.

McDonnell wearing the blue inaugural gown in January 2010. (Steve Helber/AP Photo)

Just for an inauguration, “I would set aside $1,000,” she told us. “That’s gown, shoes, simple bag, costume jewelry.” For a basic set of everyday mix-and-match clothes: two suits, four blouses, three dresses, two pants, two sweaters, three pairs of shoes, a belt and scarf, would run $3,000 to $4,000, and “that means wearing every piece once a week.” Plus, add $1,000 for winter coat, hat and gloves; $1,000 for two or three cocktail dresses; $300 for a decent purse. “The places where people look to see if you’re well-dressed are the shoes, handbag, tailoring of the suit and a watch,” she said.

McDonnell avoided Sarah Palin-style extravagance — no recognizable designer-wear, like the $2,500 Valentino jacket and $150K wardrobe that got the 2008 VP nominee in trouble. Still no word, though, on what was in McDonnell’s Bergdorf Goodman bags from that $15,000 shopping trip in 2011, paid for by businessman Jonnie Williams.

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