As you may know from an earlier post, Sarah Palin has brought me closer to my late grandmother (who died three years ago at 102). The inspiration for the last post was Sarah Palin's decision to schlep her infant around at all hours of the night as a campaign prop. Grandma would definitely not have approved.
Now comes word that Sarah Palin's campaign wardrobe cost $150,000 (leaving aside the obscene hair and makeup expenses). Since the news broke, I haven't just heard Grandma whispering in my ear. She's been shouting from wherever her spirit resides: "What, is she crazy?"
Grandma was a very practical and frugal person, but that didn't keep her from dressing well and making certain her husband and two boys were always well turned out (which drove my jeans-loving dad up the wall). And she did it on my grandfather's working class salary, right through the Great Depression and beyond.
From an early age, I accompanied Grandma on many shopping trips, including the time she bought me my first navy blazer at Barneys, which was then a reasonably priced men's store on 7th Avenue and 17th Street in NYC.
We went on our last great shopping adventure in 2002 in search of an outfit that she could wear to her granddaughter's wedding. By then Grandma was already in her late 90s and quite forgetful. But don't think she ever forgot "Grandma May's Golden Rules of Shopping."
1. Look at Saks; shop at Macy's
2. Don't buy the first thing you see
3. Never pay full price
4. Spend within your means
On this last great shopping adventure, after two hours of trying on a rack of carefully selected outfits in various understated shades of browns and beiges--no easy thing for a woman who had limited mobility and a blonde bouffant--we settled on a gorgeous jacket (with metal bead appliqué) and chocolate brown slacks.
The problems started when I headed for the checkout counter. "You can't buy the first thing you see!" she protested, forgetting that the jacket and slacks were somewhere around items 19 and 20. And we were at Saks (the one that's actually on 5th Avenue), which was a problem to start with. And we were paying full price. And while I wouldn't tell Grandma how much the jacket and slacks cost, she knew they were way more expensive than anything she would buy for herself and she didn't like her grandsons (she called my partner her "grandson," too) spending that kind of money on something she expected to wear once. But she was too frail to put up much of a fight and she really did want to look her best when her last grandchild got married.
Turns out that Grandma didn't wear the Saks outfit just once. When it was time to celebrate her 100th birthday, I asked her if she wanted to go shopping for something new. She looked at me like I was crazy and didn't need to say another word.
When we gave away all of Grandma's clothes I couldn't bring myself to part with the gorgeous jacket (with metal bead appliqué) and chocolate brown slacks. They hang in my closet, a reminder to me of a woman with extraordinary good sense, who earned the right to pass judgment on a vice presidential candidate who spent $150,000 on clothes she'll wear once while real working people wonder how they'll keep their shirts on their backs.