The $150,000 the Republican National Committee spent to buy Sarah Palin a designer wardrobe from Saks and Neiman Marcus for the campaign trail is supposed to be a scandal. Huh-come again? Sarah looks fantastic! Check her out in this elegant black suit. And remind me to get my check into the mail to the RNC to help pay for even more high-end duds for Sarah.

The fact is, as Lisa Schiffren points out on National Review Online’s Corner, Sarah Palin and her husband, Todd Palin, are comfortably well-off but far from rich parents raising five children in a state where the most important clothing purchases for families are heavy-duty parkas and boots designed to take minus-40-degree temperatures. The perfectly attractive off-the-rack clothes and mid-priced shoes (Naughty Monkey, not Manolo Blahnik) that Sarah wore before she was selected as John McCain’s running mate were fine for a small-town mayor and governor of a state not often in the national news. They can’t stand up to life spent 24/7 in the public eye: a rigorous campaign schedule that demands constant clothing changes, if only for the sake of hygiene, and wardrobe competition from the likes of Nancy Pelosi (got any idea what an Armani pantsuit costs?-try $2,000 or so a pop) and Katie Couric and her . If Barack Obama can wear a $1,500 Brioni suit (and his wife, Michelle, maintains her well-deserved reputation for elegance via some very pricey dresses), I don’t begrudge Sarah a nickel and think her clothing budget is a perfectly legitimate campaign expenditure.

Expensive clothes add up fast, especially when you throw in shoes and other accessories, and believe me, I know designer shoes! Good shoes run at $200 a pair at the barest minimum, and $300-$400 is more like it for brands such as Stuart Weitzman and Kate Spade.

I’ll let Lisa take it from here:

“The governor of Alaska turned into a vice-presidential candidate, who had to show up in front of the nation for the next 60 days, several times a day, always looking camera-ready, and impeccably turned out. She also had to project that new, somewhat amorphous thing: female power. We, as a nation, have not yet been led by a woman, and we aren’t sure what it looks like. It will, of course, vary from woman to woman, depending on her personal needs and style, but not so much. Can’t be too sexy, too severe, or too casual. For sure it requires perfectly fitted, constructed jackets, with a serious shoulder line, in good quality fabrics. Nowhere are those cheap. Palin had to look at least as good as the women we see on TV all the time. You may not realize it, but you don’t see Katie Couric or Diane Sawyer or any of the on-camera female talent at the networks, CNN or Fox in off-the-rack stuff from Macy’s. It is all upscale designer stuff, and at the low end it costs a couple of thousand per outfit. Always. Hair and make-up is done, professionally, any time you see them, at the cost of much time and money. That is the visual standard women at the upper end of politics must meet. Condoleezza Rice, who needed to project power, figured it out. Others have not. If Palin hadn’t bothered with any of it, we would have heard about that too.

“Had she been a creature of Washington, Palin would have had closet full of suits, unexciting, perhaps, but appropriate. Had she been a former First Lady running for president, whose husband has raked in $109 million in the last 8 years, she could have called Oscar de la Renta, and and had him come for a fitting. He did well with Hillary’s jewel-toned pantsuits, (at a few grand a pop?). She might already have collected some of those great Gurhan necklaces, which accentuated Hillary’s suits all election season. (Look up for yourself what they cost.) Were she Speaker of the House, and the wealthiest Democratic lawmaker, she could have called Georgio Armani himself – and worn the Pelosi pearls that cost more than the Palin’s house.

“Instead, she had zero time and no personal fortune. And she faced the terrible hurdle of being young and attractive – the very sort of woman who most desperately needs wardrobe cues to make her look authoritative. If she had had to pay for it herself, she could not have run. The bill would have been ruinous to a genuinely middle class person. So the GOP did what it had to do in order to put a non-rich woman on a national ticket.”      

And I’ll let fashion’s arbiter elegantiarum, Manolo the Shoeblogger (who found a lovely pair of $297 Kate Spades for Sarah) finish off:

“Naturally, the Manolo suggests starting with the shoes. You must shed those pedestrian, low quality shoes and move up market with something truly super fantastic.”

So be super-fantastic on me, Sarah! My check is in the mail!