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Race to White House has fashion fans buzzing

Not since Jacqueline Kennedy have fashionistas paid such close attention to what the women of politics are wearing, from Cindy McCain's popped collar to Sarah Palin's updo to Michelle Obama's off-the-rack dress.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Not since Jacqueline Kennedy first donned her signature pillbox hats have fashionistas paid such close attention to what the women of politics are wearing.

Friday may be the start of New York's Fashion Week, but couture has been in the Minnesota convention hall all week.

It kicked off on Monday with Cindy McCain and First Lady Laura Bush in Oscar de la Renta.

Vanity Fair editors estimated that McCain's fierce saffron shirt dress with the popped collar, diamond earrings, four-strand pearl necklace, white Chanel watch and strappy shoes totaled up to $313,100.

And Bush's white sensible suit, Stuart Weitzman heels and pearl stud earrings would ring up to $4,325.

While Bush's fashion sense has blossomed into subtle elegance, McCain is still evolving in her style. The purple pant suit and leather jackets of the early part of her campaign have given way to crisper, more contemporary dresses with richer colors.

“She appreciates very well-made clothes and that have rich, luxurious fabrics,” said Sasha Iglehart, Glamour magazine's Deputy Fashion Director. “Such clothes could wear the person and she seems to be able to carry it off.”

Like Wednesday evening's lime green belted dress that was rooted in the 1960s, the stark orange collared dress she wore Thursday and Thursday evening's turquoise suit with a trapeze-shaped jacket.

Throughout the convention McCain also kept recycling her accessories, including the four-strand pearl necklace and two rhinestone pins that say Navy and USMC — representing the military branches her sons serve in. Above those two is also a Blue Star pin, signifying she has a child on active duty.

“Cindy McCain accessorizes like a woman of her generation,” Iglehart said. “It has all that sparkling going on.”

McCain's known to favor Escada, Michael Kors and Carolina Herrera and was recently seen shopping at Oscar de la Renta's showroom in New York.

Sarah Palin

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Sarah Palin

View images of her rise from governor of Alaska to a potential presidential contender.

But Republican presidential candidate John McCain's running mate, Alaska governor Sarah Palin is more focused on what will get her to Washington, not on the Best Dressed List.

As Palin has said to Vogue magazine: “A reporter once asked me about it (her appearance) during the campaign, and I assured him I was trying to be as frumpy as I could by wearing my hair on top of my head and these schoolmarm glasses.”

Palin's spokeswoman Maria Comella said she didn't know what designer could take credit for the eggshell boxy jacket and black skirt that Palin wore during her rafter-raising speech Wednesday.

“I'm not sure it really matters what she's wearing,” Comella said.

Point taken.

Nevertheless the blogs are twittering with comments about the former beauty queen's updo (or updon't) and her Tina-Fey-like glasses (which she recently swapped out for ones without rims).

On Thursday she stayed with her traditional neutral-color palate, wearing a gunmetal gray jacket and a black skirt.

“In the way of clothes don't matter, the message would read she's more focused on the issues and that's totally admirable,” Iglehart said. “On the other hand I think it's a sign of confidence to be at ease with your body and confident in how you dress.”

Across the runway, er, aisle is Michelle Obama, wife of Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama, who is setting trends of her own.

The sleeveless, black-and-white dress she wore on “The View” became a must-have, off-the-rack item. But she mixes high and low, as the night her husband addressed the Mile High Stadium at the Democrats' convention in Denver she was wearing a printed dress by hot designer Thakoon Panichgul.

The fashion buzz around the political race has made it more interesting.

“Because the potential first ladies have such different styles, it makes it fun to follow,” Iglehart said.