WASHINGTON – On Inauguration Day,it doesn't matter if people are bundling up at the ceremony or getting down at party. Shoppers in Washington and elsewhere are buying Obama-inspired gear and setting budgets for ball gowns.
From Pennsylvania Avenue to Main Street
The Presidential Inaugural Committee has an online store featuring souvenirs such as stickers,posters,cups,buttons,blankets,bags and T-shirts. In Washington,an improvised inaugural store houses the merchandise for local customers.
Inaugural spokeswoman Linda Douglass said the online store is of “unprecedented size,” selling more than 23,000 items. The average purchase has been $120 per transaction.
There was an online store during the Bush inaugural,but it was very small,Douglass said.
Adding to the allure,fashion designers have created a line called “Runway for Change.” Diane Von Furstenberg,Narciso Rodriguez,Juicy Couture,Gerald Matthews and others have contributed their talents.
“The design items are doing very well,” Douglass said. “The Narciso T-shirt has nearly sold out.”
The $45 sheer Rodriguez women's tee,with red and blue stars on the front and back,has the word “CHANGE” superimposed on blue stripes.
The object of the inaugural store is to expand the festivities to the rest of the United States,Douglass said.
Adriene Grant,48,an elementary school in the Washington suburb of Prince George's County,Md.,is not going to the inauguration.
Recently retired office manager Janet Martin,62,of Merced,Calif.,is attending her first inaugural.
Although T-shirts and buttons for family and friends were on her shopping list,Martin decided she had to have a blue throw blanket with an inaugural seal.
Sales revenues will fund inaugural events,including many of the low-cost or free inaugural balls or concerts and the Jumbotron TV screens on which the inauguration will be broadcast for the crowd.
Belles of the ball
Rizik's,a high-end women's clothing store,is celebrating its 100th anniversary,having served Washington's social elite since the inauguration of President William Howard Taft.
“There seems to be a real enthusiasm about change,” said buyer SueEllen Lewis,who added she has seen more newcomers buy gowns than in previous years.
Despite all the change in the air,tradition prevails.
Liberty Jones,public relations manager for Neiman Marcus,said trends have revolved around bright colors and styles inspired by Michelle Obama: classic silhouettes and off-the shoulder gowns. “We're seeing a more contemporary dresser and the fashion and the trends reflect that,” she said.
Although politics is typically not a venue for fashion icons “strong women leaders have an impact on fashion,” Jones said. Mrs. Obama,for example,”Dresses with distinction,not following trends.”
Although a gown with a thousand dollar price tag may be out of reach for middle class Americans,those “inside the Beltway” who receive ball tickets tend to have a budget for inaugural events,said Lewis.
Jones said the flailing economy has had no impact on shoppers at Neiman Marcus,where dresses cost from $300 to $4,000.
“The gown business has been better than ever,” she said. “We've done incredible. They're coming in not just for gowns,but other kinds of ensembles.”
Just the right dress
As news swirled about Gov. Sarah Palin's alleged six-figure threads,Michelle Obama had already appeared on “The View” wearing a $148 dress from White House | Black Market and then showed up on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” in an outfit from J. Crew that cost less than $340.
The surge in requests for the White House | Black Market Tank Leaf Print dress that Obama wore inspired corporate executives to create a special line for the inauguration,all inspired by the future first lady. Prices range from $148 to $278.
“Mrs. Obama has proved that great fashion is affordable and accessible,” Wells said.
The White House | Black Market store at Union Station near the Capitol has a display of four couture gowns that raised $2,950 for the Clothes Off Our Back Foundation,which auctions off celebrity apparel to benefit children's charities.
“We were thinking about what we could do,and we thought,‘Wouldn't it be great to ride this ride we've been on with Michelle Obama wearing one of our dresses and do something for charity?'” said Jessica Wells the store's public relations director.
Cathy O'Connor,47,an accountant from Walnut Grove,Calif.,flew out to attend both the inauguration and a ball. After 30 minutes,she had the perfect dress: a black floor-length gown,with black beading embellishing the empire waistline.
“I brought two dresses,but they're both short,” she said,as she bought a matching black beaded bracelet. “I packed some earrings that match it perfectly. It's fate.”