The Republican National Convention is a grand political arena where policies, ideas and plans for the future of this country are discussed. But mostly, it's a fashion show.
Make no mistake about it, Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney’s wives are under tremendous scrutiny as the colors, styles and designers they choose speaks volumes about their personality and the image they want to project to the voters. Even the prices of their ensembles is analyzed.
Knowing this, Ryan’s wife Janna Ryan chose a $169 Talbots emerald green wool sheath for her husband’s debut on the national stage Wednesday. This signaled to voters that she is one of the regular folks, people who don't have the money to spend on expensive clothing.
Her dress can be found online and in the national chain’s 517 store locations in 46 states and Canada. Talbots sends out 15 brand catalogs a year, and in 2011, they reached a worldwide circulation of approximately 41 million.
Mrs. Ryan’s moderate retailer fashion statement Wednesday night wasn’t her first. Earlier this month, she set the tone for her campaign wardrobe wearing a $70 printed Dana Buchman dress from Kohl’s to her husband’s VP nomination announcement.
By contrast, Romney’s wife Ann Romney went upscale when she addressed the convention on Tuesday night. She chose a $1,990 Oscar de la Renta bright red, silk taffeta, elbow-length sleeve, belted dress from the designer’s pre-fall collection. And while this is her first Oscar, it is probably not her last.
It must have pleased the Romney campaign to have Ann compared favorably to Nancy Reagan, who loved red and was a big fan of Oscar's designs. Former first ladies Hillary Clinton and Laura Bush are also fond of Oscar, and both wore his designs frequently while in the White House. Apparently, nothing says "first lady" like an Oscar dress.
Some observers wondered if the reason Ann chose Oscar is because he is an American designer that first lady Michelle Obama has not worn. The designer made headlines when he publicly slapped Mrs. Obama on the wrist for choosing a British designer for Chinese President Hu Jintao’s state dinner. De la Renta's remark made so many headlines, Michelle addressed his remarks publicly, saying, "Women, wear what you love. That's all I can say."
We fully expect these Republican ladies to continue their dueling upscale-downscale fashion statements. But Ann Romney has to walk a very fine line between dressing elegantly but not ostentiously, which will only serve remind voters of the Romney's elevated lifestyle and financial status.
Both will also be careful to wear American designs, and may even be checking to see where their outfits are produced (to stop any unwanted outsourcing criticism).
Tell us: What do you think of the Republican wives' first major televised fashion statements?