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Should Michelle Obama borrow clothes and jewels like a celeb? Nancy Reagan couldn't.


Michelle Obama wore $17,000 diamond chandelier earrings designed by Loree Rodkin to the "We Are One" concert on Sunday — not a gift from her husband, but borrowed from a Chicago retailer. The next morning, dispatches were dutifully sent out from the publicist for Rodkin to let the press know whom to credit for her ear candy. How very red carpet.

Michelle Obama looked stunning, but should she be borrowing baubles like Kate Winslet on the eve of the Oscars? Or a former first lady who was a size 0? As reported in a 1988 Time article, a little more than two decades ago, Nancy Reagan got her manicured toe in hot water for borrowing designer clothes after having promised she would no longer do so. (Having seen her collection of James Galanos gowns at the Reagan library last year, I know that woman could shop ... or borrow.)  You see, back in 1982, she agreed to stop borrowing clothes — thanks to a pact created by the then-White House counsel and Office of Government Ethics — because the gifts or loans represented taxable income when the donors could benefit from her wearing them.

Now, that's a no-brainer. Already, the Maria Pinto, J. Crew and Black & White outfits Mrs. Obama has bought and worn have been major sellouts.  And her status as a style icon has been cemented by fashion critics and women alike, so she will be one to watch for fashion cues. Come tax day, she may have to report the "gifts" she borrowed as income.

Do you think the first lady should be calling in gowns and gems or pull out that credit card and rely on her own wardrobe? Tell us.

— Monica Corcoran

Photo credit: Getty Images

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She should NOT be borrowing clothes or jewelry. If she can't afford to buy it (and I don't mean on our dime), she should not be wearing it. Who does she think she is anyway? They both turn my stomach. Isn't it wonderful that we voted in a socialist to be our president?? Wake up America!!!

Actually, she can do what she feels. If individuals would do their research, she has the money WITH her PRINCETON and HARVARD LAW degrees, along with her former 6- figure salary. Everything the President and their families do with their money will not affect the outcome of the American people. They did not come to their new positions poor or broke. If we would have paid more attention to what was done with OUR MONEY and "scrutinized" the White House earlier, we would not be in this predicament with the economy and our relationship with the rest of the world. My stomach is filled with joy knowing that eight years did not turn into 12! If TRUE AMERICANS, regardless of how they felt about the outcome of the election, would not only back the individuals elected to their positons, but their fellow citizens as well, half of the battles in which we have ahead would be won. Individualism and selfishness is why we are in the state that we are in. So congrats America, you listen, paid attention to YOUR country, and now WE will all dig ourselves out of this mess and become the country we are known to be. We all look WOKE TO ME! TEAM AMERICA

If she wants to dress up like a celeb it's okay with me. It's fun, and she IS a celeb! And she always looks great.

I fail to see the problem with Obama "borrowing" jewelry. If I could... I would too.

When Michelle Obama appears in public she not only represents the United States, she also has the opportunity to showcase American fashion houses and American designers -- things that stimulate our economy in additon to raising her approval rating abroad. I like having my First Lady look great in addition to being the smart, strong, compassionate woman she is. If she borrows the clothes that can give the American fashion industry a boost rather than relying solely on her own wardrobe, so much the better. She isn't spending taxpayer money, and the only favor she is granting the designers in return is wearing the clothes -- which helps hundreds of thousands of American workers. (And while I wasn't big on Nancy Reagan, I never saw an ethical problem in her borrowing clothes from designers either -- it's not like she turned around and gave them government contracts in return!)

Like the woman said ahead of me with their Princton, Harvard Law Education one would think they have the money for the Bling .She should have her own selected jewellery one would think.No they are very well heeled so it's bad press.

I don't see the association between borrowing very expensive jewelry and being a socialist.

In terms of capitalism it's very beneficial for a designer to have the first lady wear one of their pieces. If I were a jewelery designer who made very expensive items I would want the First Lady to wear my pieces even if she couldn't afford it; it's a wonderfully effective form of advertising.

Listen to us, having the freedom to voice the opinion about what we think the First Lady should wear and not wear. Aren't we lucky. Those who condem her, are not appreciative.

I love the Obama's, but I'm not following by BLIND faith as many American's are doing. If it wasn't allowed and seen as unethical before, the same should be applied now to the Obama's. She can sport whatever she feels like if she paid for them. However she shouldn't be borrowing to the benefit of those loaning these extravagant items out. Imagine the under the table dealings and payoffs that could occur just to have the Obama's wear something. "Here Miss Obama, wear my earrings and I'll give you $xxxxx." Don't make the Presidency a sham people!!!

OH well maybe next time

Who is this hater Cindy anyway? the world needs people who are more positive and loving not haters like you who can say something like this and I quote her words:

"Who does she think she is anyway? They both turn my stomach. Isn't it wonderful that we voted in a socialist to be our president?? Wake up America!!!"

If you are so disgusted that the Obamas won and you can't live with it, pls ask God to help you so you don't catch a terrible disease because it's been said that bitterness & grudges cause cancers and other diseases. God help you though.

Wait one minute....when Sarah Palin was wearing clothes that were thought to be expensive, the Dems threw a fit . Mrs. Obama said on national tv, "oh, i wear J. Crew" -- my how things change! Where's your Gap dress? No economy problem in the White House now I guess! Funny how campaign promises never come true.

she should follows law just like everyone else..what is this?

she should not borrow. pay for your own clothes. what is this???

Our First Ladie's clothes and style are important, wheather
she owns them, wears them on loan, or given to her
from designers.

Michelle is expected to look classy and stylish, it's in the
best interest of all Americans.

Let her enjoy the status and respect this tradition.

Our First Ladie's clothes and style are important, wheather
she owns them, wears them on loan, or given to her
from designers.

Michelle is expected to look classy and stylish, it's in the
best interest of all Americans.

Let her enjoy the status and respect this tradition.

She should be allowed to do it! If celebs can do it, why can't the most powerful woman in the free world?? plus those jewels look stunning on her!

okay people it's one thing to BORROW $20,000 jewels and clothes and quite another to PAY for them. palin PAID for her clothes. obama is BORROWING. technically that's more economical she's fab regardless of what she's wearing but her style just epitomizes the class of the first lady.

I think she should borrow clothes/jewelry, as long as they are American made and/or American designed. Just think of how it could help our economy to have women inspired to buy everything from J Crew to lavish outfits. She's going to look great, and she might as well be a walking billboard to the world of our talented craftspeople!

I like the Obamas but the reason that she should not borrow is because it costs the gov't money. The designers can get tax write offs and they pay fewer tax dollars. So -no- she should not be pulling tax dollars out of the system.

You know, I had no idea this was even a controversy until now. I could care less if she borrow's them, and if that stimulates the economy and gives a boost to our fashion industry, especially young unknown designers (as I read in another article) then I'm all for it.

Besides, I think it's way cool to have a First Couple who are both not only brainy, but hot and fashionable. And the Obama's are that.

Anyway, this seems like such a small petty concern with enormous challenges facing us now I can't believe people even spend time on it.

Federal laws against gifts can get ridiculous. I was making all of $46,000 in a job that made no contracts or had any influential autority. I wasn't allowed to accept a small silk-covered box from the mayor of a little hamlet in China, because it was "worth" more than $25. It was something on the order of an item I could have picked up at the dollar store. It's very embarrassing and insulting to the gift-giver.

I think borrowing should be allowed, if for no other reason than our leaders should look like important poeple, and not like "ordinary folk." Imagine the wagging tongues if/when Michelle shows up in the same dress again! The conservative (read hick town) image Jimmy Carter's White House presented to the world did not command much respect from other countries (or even his own countrymen). I don't want my president and first lady dressing like my favorite aunt and uncle.
Many other cultures do not value the American ideal of a self-made man, coming from nothing and making it big--it's tradition and family connections going back generations that garner respect. The best we can do is make sure our leaders project that image.

Americans grouse about the wealthy and powerful showing off, but they would not admire thier celebrities nearly as much if they didn't put on the glam.

Michelle Obama a socialist?

Cindy McCain, is that you?

Stop with the sour apples, already, we want a little relaxing socialism after 8 long years of rapacious capitalism that's nearly wrecked the country.

If people think that they will be purchasing anything out of their own money, they're living in a dream world. I don't think any president/wife has been paying for anything. I think people are crazy to think otherwise. Who do any of them think they're kidding?

I believe the Palin wardrobe was paid for out of campaign funds, not her own pocket otherwise the baby wouldn't have been dressed in fancy togs from a MN boutique shop. Campaigns usually dress the candidate to project an image. Of note was that they dressed her entire family, down to the children and not just the candidate and spouse.

I think it is best for Mrs. Obama to promote the American fashion industry as best she can. Borrow or buy doesn't matter to me so much as the promulgation of economic stimulus by wearing American made clothing.

my understanding is that most of the clothes worn for the day were from j crew, etc. including michelle's green gloves and the girls' outfits. to borrow some expensive earrings for a few hours for a ball that is watched by 1/3 of Americans (according to Nielsen) is not a bad option. i especially like that when michelle does choose to wear designer items, she chooses smaller, less well-known up-and-coming American designers who need the boost.

all of this is in contrast to the way the rnc bought some dep't store outfits for palin, and then months later she divested herself of them when the media outed the story. those were not "careful" decisions or are they by-and-large seen as "wise" with 20/20 hindsight.

my respect for michelle and the choices she makes only increases: she makes smart choices about who and what to wear when. what to buy and what to borrow.

if borrowing becomes an obscene habit and unethical, yes; it should be limited. reagan was inaugurated january, 1981. nancy promised to stop borrowing in 1982, after at least a year in office and in conjuction with the Office of Government Ethics. the situation is not the same in the case of michelle obama. yet.

let's see how the first year or so goes... if she continues doing exaclty what she's been doing: being thrifty, and carefully choosing a few select pieces to show off by emerging American designers for high-profile events, I think it's wonderful. if a problem develops, i'm sure we'll have plenty of opportunities to be critical by mid-2010.

Stick to the question and quit bashing!
NO, I do not think that gowns or jewelry should be borrowed. Pull out the credit card.
If Nancy couldn't borrow neither can Michelle. It opens the possibility for special deals to be made.

At the mercy of the media, she is in a no win situation. She is expected to attend dinners, concerts, international meetings, and be photographed any time the lens can make contact with her image. It is this image we all expect to be fashionable, glamourous, and not a stale repeat of what she wore last week..Why should she be responsible to incur the cost of the high price of fashion. All the critics would be the first to critize her for looking dowdy, or spending large amounts of her income on clothing and jewelry. As First Lady she should be allowed to keep everything, since it is a small price to pay for what she will do for this country. The tax payers are not paying for her clothing and jewelry, so it is one of the best bargains this country ever gets.

Wait one minute....when Sarah Palin was wearing clothes that were thought to be expensive, the Dems threw a fit . Mrs. Obama said on national tv, "oh, i wear J. Crew" -- my how things change! Where's your Gap dress? No economy problem in the White House now I guess! Funny how campaign promises never come true.

Let's be clear -- Mrs. Obama did pay for her dresses in the past and to date. The status of the earrings, I don't know. But let's be clear that the Obamas have made about 600K a year for the last 5 years or so and only on 1 home and 1 car and have lived a rather frugal life for others in their tax bracket to date.

Buy them....borrow them...who cares? Michelle could be retail's economic stimulus plan, and it wouldn't cost taxpayer's a dime.

No borrowing at all. She already creates an ethical violation when the designers put out press releases using her as their model/spokesperson to advertise and market their goods. The designers make profits off of the Office of the President of the United States, since she represents that position as First Lady. Taxable income is what it is, Obama receives a "service" and the designers receive advertising. I'd also like to point out that when Ms. Obama wears an outfit touted to be from J. Crew, Target and the likes, the outfit is reported to be available in the upcoming debut line. Therefore, it is NOT off the rack and the designers promote their lines in a totally new format. Just find out if Target and J. Crew have ever had such a list before for outfits and items not even on the floors, incredible advertising of an unprecedented level.
If it was considered unethical previously, then we hold to that standard. If this is a case of "we are better" than previous administrations, then I pray for the future of this country - it might be a tiny light of what to expect in other arenas from the President himself.
Are the kids going to get pimped out as well? Why stop at dresses, shoes and jewelry when there is an entire world of toys, personal products, electronics and such that deserve "an economic push"! Where does it stop?

Michele Obama is her own person. It's nice to see that the first lady won't be using tax payers dollars, like others have, to look like a silly fashion plate. She's beautiful with grace and much elegance.The gown was gorgeous and the both of them looked great. They are a blessing to America.

Let's all show more comprehension in our reading. The article states that Michelle Obama borrowed a single pair of earrings. She has never to my knowledge, nor is it stated in the article that she borrowed clothing. The question is put forth, should she? I can assure you that in a deprressed retail environment we need Michelle in even more great looking items to stimulate this economy. I think it's wonderful that women and girls are taking their fashion cues from a smart, goal oriented, ivy league educated "Woman", and First Lady, rather than the sleazy frocks worn out by ill behaved, overly intoxicated and undereducated starlet tarts. Perhaps Mrs. Obama should refrain from borrowing jewelry items unless she pays a nominal rental fee, but then again maybe she should borrow regularly and require the designers to make donations to charities in return for her support.

No borrowing; she should be a good role model & live within her means.

I see no problem with Michelle Obama borrowing clothes or jewelry. Michelle Obama is the FIRST LADY of the United States of America! My America, your America, our America! As long as the new president is not abusing tax payers money, then who cares what they wear and who bought it. Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free. President Obama and 1st lady looked breath taking in their ball clothing. I love looking at them both! I give them 2 thumbs up!!!

Would it be more ethical if the designers donated these items to our First Lady, instead of loan them to her? There are many things that were not allowed in the past, that is obviously now allowed - like equality for all! President Obama is a perfect example of change in the here and now! GET OUT OF THE PAST folks. President Obama raised more money than any other President, or running mate. They deserve to look their best. Raising money, borrowing earrings - they are not stealing!

Michelle Obama looked stunning. I have no problem with our first lady borrowing clothing or jewlery. It all depends on the rules. If the rules state that borrowing items is unacceptable, then the rules should be followed.

"Federal laws against gifts can get ridiculous. I was making all of $46,000 in a job that made no contracts or had any influential autority. I wasn't allowed to accept a small silk-covered box from the mayor of a little hamlet in China, because it was "worth" more than $25."
Absolutely, Bungalow. Let's steer the blog into doctors and pharmaceutical companies. The federal law is that the drug reps cannot even give the docs pens and pads of paper anymore. The strongholds put on the marketplace in our once free market economy are ridiculous. The Obamas should abide by whatever tax laws albeit stupid are on the books. Better yet, let's get rid of half the laws in this country that are turning us into a socialist state--now courtersy of the new Prez himself. BTW, in the fashion sphere, I thought that yellow brocade ensemble was hideous. It looked liked something a Cuban-American grandmother would have worn to a wedding in 1963. Michelle is bouncing all over the board with her fashion self. In another year she'll have an expert helping her and will stick with established designers instead of young designers striving to find their niche. The white gown was too poofy, Sweet 16 looking. Trust me: she will get her fashion thing together in the coming year...Signed, An independent voter for McCain (Well, I really wanted Romney)

Here is my take on this very situation; this is the oldest trick in the book. Although I respect each and every commentator’s opinion I disagree with those who think Michelle O is wrong for borrowing the beautiful earrings. Here is a little education from a fashion student whose worked and studied in the field of Fashion Marketing and PR. This case isn’t a matter of whether she can afford the earrings or ethics it’s simply a fashion marketing practice that’s been around for centuries. Michelle O isn’t jeopardizing taxable income as long as she gives the earrings back; or if she donates then she could write them off at the end of the year. The fact remains; Michelle Obama is the most powerful influential fashion leader at the present moment. She is more powerful than Miss Devil Wears Prada herself, Chief Editor of Vogue, Anna Wintour. For this reason, designers are doing everything in their power to have Michelle O wear their products. When she does it is an immediate sell-out, just look at the J.Crew online retailer for instance. When it was reported that the first family got their inauguration accessories and outerwear from J.Crew, consumers where very anxious to wear and dress in the lifestyle of the first family. As a result, the e-store crashed. This is the oldest trick in the book and not quite advertising, because advertising is paid for by the fashion company. This is the most common practice in Fashion PR, where fashion companies loan the product unpaid. Most products are samples, which mean it haven’t gone into production and is constantly being borrowed by fashion publications, celebrities and even first families. Now lets see what Michelle O wears as she grace the cover of Vogue’s March edition and the domino effect!!!

Yes, I don't see why the other first ladies were not allowed. Who cares who lends fashion dresses or jewelry to them. They are humans just like the rest of us but with power. Besides they return them, right? If they decide to keep them without the agencies permission (theft)then I would have a problem with it.

Leave her alone. We have many other important things to think about.
As long as she looks great and represents our country well it doesn't matter. Her use of American clothes does stimulate our economy. The American fashion industry is large and important. I understand that the Smithsonian has many gifts of jewels that were donated that the 1st. lady could borrow and wear. We would like to see them.
Jackie Kennedy made us proud and so will Mrs. Obama.

1) lets see if she pays taxes on the all of these items
2) I think no politician and wife or kids should get something for nothing, we need to be fair


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