First Ladies and the Business of Borrowed Clothes

Emmanuel Macron made headlines this weekend for his inaugural attire. France's new president wore a “modest” 450 euro ($592) suit for the festivities on Sunday, in an apparent attempt to dissociate himself from "bling-bling" politics. His choice of clothing, according to Reuters, “seemed to send a signal that he would be different from his predecessors.”

The publication noted that conservative former president Nicolas Sarkozy, "who led France from 2007 to 2012, was nicknamed 'President Bling-Bling' for his flashy lifestyle." On the other hand, "Macron's direct predecessor Francois Hollande, a self-styled 'Normal President,' came under fire for paying nearly 10,000 euros a month to his hairdresser."

Even more interesting, however, was Macron’s wife Brigitte Trogneux's lavender Louis Vuitton dress and matching military jacket, which she paired with a Capucines bag from the Paris-based brand. According to a statement from Macron's staff, Trogneux's Louis Vuitton outfit – which could have easily cost upwards of $5,000 at retail – was loaned to her for the occasion by the brand.

As noted by the Telegraph, “After meeting Delphine Arnault – Executive Vice President of Louis Vuitton – in 2014, Trogneux developed a close relationship with the house which means they now loan her looks for many of her public appearances.”

During the campaign, Trogneux, herself, told Candice Nedelec, co-author of “The Macrons,” that “designers loaned her the clothes and that she always returns them, and that it was her way of honoring French design. But she added that if became damaging to her husband, she would stop wearing them.”

In the U.S., the loaning of garments and accessories to the First Lady has become largely uncommon in recent years. Anita McBride, chief of staff to Laura Bush during her time as first lady, said Mrs. Bush paid for all her clothes, including her two Oscar de la Renta inaugural gowns.

Michelle Obama almost always paid for her own clothing. According to Joanna Rosholm, press secretary to the former first lady, said in 2014, “For official events of public or historic significance, such as a state visit, the first lady's clothes may be given as a gift by a designer and accepted on behalf of the U.S. government. They are then stored by the National Archives.''

While the White House refused to say how often the first lady wore donated clothes and the National Archives declined to say how many such items it has in storage from Obama, a spokesman did say that she did not borrow any clothing, unlike Nancy Reagan, who came under fire years ago for borrowing designer gowns and not always returning them or reporting them as gifts.