Of Price, Populism and Politics. Also, Pearls and Pants.


Rhodium plate is consistent with her message in a way that diamonds and 24-karat gold would not have been. This was probably first brought home to Ms. Trump during the outcry over her appearance on “60 Minutes” in a $10,800 bracelet from her own line, one her company subsequently marketed (oops). Then there was the social media controversy over her appearance in January in a $4,990 silver Carolina Herrera evening dress just after her father’s travel ban on immigrants and citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries went into effect.

Mr. Fillon, on the other hand, has something of the opposite problem: His gift suits are consistent with a message; it’s just the wrong one.

Mr. Fillon was voted 15th of the 20 best-dressed men in France last year by French GQ, and is known for his penchant for red socks from Gammarelli, the Italian company that also makes socks for the Vatican. So the fact that he would wear very expensive suits is not a surprise. (Besides, Le Corbusier wore Arnys, too; François Mitterrand used to wear its hats.) The problem is that he would get someone else to pay for them, especially when he is in the midst of pushing an austerity plan.

Photo

François Fillon, the beleaguered French presidential candidate.

Credit
Eric Feferberg/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Taken together with current allegations that he enriched family members by employing them in nonexistent jobs, the clothing freebies underscore the perception that he is elitist and corrupt. His response to the revelations — in an interview published on Monday in the newspaper Les Echos, he effectively said “so what?” — did not help. (Arnys had no comment on the situation.)

Meanwhile, Mr. Fillon’s closest competitor, the independent candidate Emmanuel Macron, now believed to be the front-runner, is known for wearing suits by Jonas et Cie, a favorite of many local diplomats, which sell for €340 to €380 ($363 to $406). This is a choice he made after formerly wearing custom suits from Lagonda, which retail from €800 to €1,200 ($854 to $1,281), during his earlier career as an investment banker — a canny exchange probably based more on constituency than aesthetics. (Note: He still came in 20th on GQ’s best-dressed list.)

Historically, we want our elected officials and their families, especially the families who are most often photographed next to them, to represent their countries as elegantly and admirably as possible, while at the same time representing the electorate as genuinely as possible. And these two imperatives often come into conflict, especially as the factions they serve grow further and further apart.

While this has been an issue in the past (see Nancy Reagan and the scandal of her request for free suits when she was first lady and, at the opposite extreme, the complaints when Rosalynn Carter, during the 1970s recession, recycled her old dresses; also the hoo-ha around Sarah Palin’s campaign wardrobe), it has never been quite as microscopically chronicled, as undeniable or as generally accessible as it is today.

Want to know how much your leader’s clothes cost? Look it up on Google. Budget negotiations may never be quite the same.

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