It is no secret that the Obamas are advocates for free handouts, but even in her personal life Michelle Obama does not appear to have shied away from accepting free goodies. Numerous news outlets have reported on the first lady’s proclivity for high fashion. And Mrs. Obama’s pricey tastes have not precluded her ability to wear the outfits over which many women drool.
Rumors abound as to exactly how the first family obtains all the pomp and frills associated with Mrs. Obama’s wardrobe. Do the Obamas pay for it all themselves or are the first lady’s outfits given to her gratis? As with most things, it appears the answer lies somewhere in the middle.
Ikram Goldman, owner of the Chicago boutique Ikram, manages the majority of the first lady’s sartorial needs. Any designer wishing to dress Mrs. Obama must first go through Goldman, who remains exceedingly tight-lipped as to her dealings with the first lady. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Goldman donated $6,900 to Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign, yet it is unclear whether Mrs. Obama pays for her services.
True to form, Goldman has yet to respond to any of The Daily Caller’s myriad attempts to contact her.
Not only does Goldman act as the conduit for the first lady’s contact with designers, but she is also the initial checkbook. According to the New York Times, it was Goldman who inspired the idea that Jason Wu and Isabella Toledo donate their inaugural outfits to Mrs. Obama. In lieu of payment, their designs would be featured in the Smithsonian.
Michael Franc, vice president of government relations at the Heritage Foundation told TheDC, “It’s a different caliber of gift if it is to go to the Smithsonian. It would seem to be understandable and acceptable. On the other hand, if it was a repeated pattern that would be a different story.”
Franc went on to note the more favorable media coverage that the current first lady enjoys compared to other fashionable female political figures. “The press gave Sarah Palin a terrible time for the clothing she wore during the [2008 presidential] campaign…And they did the same with Nancy Reagan when she was first lady,” he said.
While few of Mrs. Obama’s gifts have yet ended up in a museum, promises have been made, according to New York Times bestselling nonfiction author, Ronald Kessler.
“The items [Michelle] Obama has either borrowed or received free have included a $17,313 pair of Loree Rodkin diamond earrings, and clothes and gowns worth $1,000 to $6,000,” he said. “In some cases, Michelle Obama’s representatives have said she will donate the items to the Smithsonian.”
As of today, the first lady has only donated one gown to the Smithsonian — the aforementioned 2009 inaugural gown designed by New York designer Jason Wu.
Desiree Rogers, the former White House Social Secretary, was well known for her attendance at fashion shows and her cutting-edge personal style when she worked with the first lady. Rogers, however, refused to engage in any conversation about Mrs. Obama or her clothing.
“I don’t have anything to do with them anymore,” she replied when contacted.
A spokesman for Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington told TheDC that while it might not look good, Mrs. Obama’s acceptance of gifts probably does not represent an ethical conflict. “There is no gift rule that applies because she is not an executive employee,” the spokesman said.
The White House declined to comment on Mrs. Obama’s clothing and accessories. The numerous designers the first lady has patronized have also chosen to remain mum, presumably not wanting to lose one of their most valued (albeit not always paying) customers. Among the designers who refused comment or declined to respond to this article were: Peter Soronen, J.Crew, Maria Cornejo, Naeem Khan, Prabal Gurung, Loree Rodkin, Isabel Toledo, Maria Pinto, and Thakoon Panichgul.
WATCH: MICHELLE OBAMA OUT IN HOLLYWOOD