Burning Styleite Question: 'Why Isn’t Sarah Palin Selling More Clothes?'

Justin Fenner at Styleite needs to buy a clue or two about how women who like Sarah Palin think and act, and about Palin herself.

In a post late Friday afternoon, he asked, "Why Isn’t Sarah Palin Selling More Clothes?" (bolds are mine):

Regardless of what you think about Sarah Palin’s politics, it’s a little difficult to get around the fact that the woman is, at this point, an institution unto herself. She’s written a New York Times Bestseller, her reality show on TLC sometimes gets good ratings, and hardly a day goes by when she doesn’t generate a handful of headlines across multiple mediums. Like it or not, the woman has fans.


So why isn’t she inspiring the same kind of apparel sales as, say, Michelle Obama or Kate Middleton?


We refuse to believe that the answer to that question is that conservative women just don’t like fashion.


... Similarly, it’s not like Palin downplays the importance of her appearance. The $150,000 of RNC money she spent on her campaign wardrobe in 2008 got more press coverage than everything Michelle Obama has worn in the past three months combined. Those outfits couldn’t have gotten more press coverage if the designers themselves had frantically called around to Vogue and T Magazine to let them know Palin would appear bedecked in their garments. And if you find something about her politics objectionable, you can’t really say her penchant for smart suits and clean lines is a bad thing.


Maybe this dedication to appearance is a habit from her days as a beauty queen, but for all the attention her looks have gotten, isn’t it a wonder that the women who admire her didn’t flock to Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue (the stores from which her campaign looks were culled) to buy the same kinds of bracelet sleeve cardigans and blazers she wore into the ground? Shouldn’t the red windbreaker she wore on the cover of Going Rogue have spawned the sale of a million North Face jackets?


For a woman as patently dedicated to fashion as Palin, it’s a big surprise the industry — and her rabid fans — haven’t responded in kind. Even though her book sales are slipping, she’s proved she can sell product as well as she sells herself. So why not clothes?

Fenner is right, at least in terms of female Palin admirers I've met, when he eliminates the possibility "that conservative women just don’t like fashion." But he gets perilously close to implying that he will be proven wrong if they don't eventually run out and buy the stuff the former Alaska governor wears.

What Fenner totally doesn't get is that Palin's popularity has nothing to do with what she wears and everything to do with who she is: a rugged, independent individual, wife, and mom with strong political convictions and a track record. Similarly, he doesn't understand that Palin has legions of admirers -- not "rabid fans" -- who would be expected to have similar independent temperaments. These are the last people who would run out and buy something just because "Sarah's wearing it." I also believe that his assertion that Palin is somehow "patently dedicated to fashion" is way off the mark. "Dedicated to appearance." the term he uses earlier, is not at all the same thing.

As to the $150,000 spent on clothing during the campaign, my recall is that she was told by John McCain's presidential campaign operatives that she needed to spend the money, and that she had little choice in the matter. The spending involved was leaked by supposedly outraged McCain staffers, many of whom "just so happened" to have previously worked with Mitt Romney's unsuccessful GOP primary campaign. During the week before Election Day 2008, The Prowler at American Spectator laid out what the wardrobe leak and other sniping about Palin was really all about:


Former Mitt Romney presidential campaign staffers, some of whom are currently working for Sen. John McCain and Gov. Sarah Palin's bid for the White House, have been involved in spreading anti-Palin spin to reporters, seeking to diminish her standing after the election. "Sarah Palin is a lightweight, she won't be the first, not even the third, person people will think of when it comes to 2012," says one former Romney aide, now working for McCain-Palin. "The only serious candidate ready to challenge to lead the Republican Party is Mitt Romney. He's in charge on November 5th."


... Should McCain-Palin not win next week, Romney is expected to mount another presidential run, though it isn't clear that he has handled himself particularly well since losing the nomination.


... Some former Romney aides were behind the recent leaks to media, including CNN, that Governor Sarah Palin was a "diva" and was going off message intentionally.

An AmSpec commenter noted that "Palin's wardrobe is being returned to the RNC after the election, where it'll be auctioned for charity."

But getting back to Justin Fenner's question at Mediaite's Styleite division: Besides the Obama economy, which is causing everyone to watch their personal spending carefully, the reason that her largely conservative admirers aren't running to the stores to buy what she wears is that they're not a bunch of sheep.

Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.

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