Sarah Palin’s Stylist Justifies Shopping Spree

After months of relative silence about the work she did styling the Palin family before the 2008 election, New York stylist Lisa Kline is finally ready to talk about the fiasco. I’m talking, of course, about the $150,000 wardrobe debacle that The Boston Globe has called “the most damaging piece of information about” Sarah Palin. In Palin’s new book, Going Rogue, Kline, the woman behind the buying, is referred to only as a “New York stylist” Palin says she “didn’t ask for.”

Palin may not have asked for Kline, but she definitely needed her. She was plucked from relative obscurity in Alaska in a largely gimmicky move and immediately became an endless fixture in the press. So maybe $150,000 is quite a lot of money, but Kline’s explanation of how things really went down makes the whole thing seem a bit more reasonable. First of all, Palin and her family weren’t even present on any of the shopping trips the press had such a field day with; Kline and an assistant picked up everything. But here’s the catch: she says a budget was never mentioned and she wasn’t asked to pay for anything because it was being charged to a big campaign donor.

As a stylist to CEOs and news anchors, I’d imagine Kline isn’t really used to having budgeting issues. She routinely dresses professional women for whom style is a much bigger issue than money. Given that she was hired by the campaign with some knowledge of her clientele, perhaps a little more guidance in terms of budget would have made sense.

Kline told The New York Times that, at any other time, she would have used her relationship with designers to get the wardrobe at well below retail, but the time crunch and holiday weekend meant that literally nobody was around. Given the little information she had from the Republican campaign—and the fact that she was working to get the transformation done in a limited time over Labor Day weekend — Kline did a hell of a job.

But once the massive wardrobe spending came to light, Palin and the rest of the campaign went well out of their way to distance themselves from what quickly became a huge issue. With the news, Palin’s carefully spun “woman of the people” image began to unravel as she was blamed for selling out and trading up.

What no one mentioned was that she traded up from pink fleece and faux-Burberry—which she wore when she became governor in 2006—to understated Oscar De La Renta when her position was set to expand massively in 2008. Entire blogs are devoted to stalking Michelle Obama’s very expensive style. Everything from Hillary Clinton’s pantsuits to an occasional hair accessory is scrutinized, and I don’t care how much people whine about $150,000, they would whine even more about pink fleece. I’m not even a Palin fan and I think that both her and the stylist hired to dress the Palin family were hung out to dry on this one. What do you think? [NYTimes]