CHEAP IS CHIC: When it comes to politicians’ wives, it seems as though austerity is the new luxury. Paul Ryan’s wife, Janna, wore a $169 Talbots emerald brushed-back wool sheath for her husband’s debut on the national stage Wednesday night at the Republican convention. And the black and white Talbots sheath she wore Thursday night costs even less – $129. (Ryan wannabes can find both dresses online and in the chain’s 580 stores.) The mother of three now calls Wisconsin home but she is in-the-know about what goes on in and beyond the Beltway. A Wellesley College graduate, Ryan was once a D.C. up-and-comer in her own right, working as a tax attorney and a lobbyist before relocating to Wisconsin with the Republican vice presidential candidate.

Her appearance Wednesday night wasn’t the first time she opted for moderate fashion: The fair-haired Oklahoma native wore a $70 printed Dana Buchman dress from Kohl’s when her husband’s candidacy was announced earlier this month. And during “a porch party,” she reportedly told a neighbor the sandals she was wearing were a $2 find from the local Goodwill.

This story first appeared in the August 31, 2012 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Perhaps Ryan is taking a page from First Lady Michelle Obama, who is known to wear Talbots and J. Crew for TV appearances. Ryan even chose an off-the-rack dress for her daughter, Liza, to wear, when the family stepped into the spotlight Wednesday night. The youngster wore a $64 frock from My Michelle, a Kellwood label that is sold at Kohl’s and J.C. Penney.

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Mitt Romney’s wife, Ann, went considerably more upscale when addressing delegates Tuesday night in Tampa, wearing a $1,990 red silk taffeta Oscar de la Renta dress. She went with de la Renta again Thursday night, wearing a $1,490 ocean-colored crimped cotton and silk cap-sleeve dress with a $295 bug-shaped brooch and an $890 ocean-colored silk charmeuse bolero.

Friendly as he is with Hillary and Bill Clinton, the designer has been a bipartisan favorite for years. But Romney, whose dress is from the designer’s pre-fall collection, was until recently an unfamiliar face. “She could not be a more charming or a nicer lady,” de la Renta said.

While it remains to be seen whether her husband’s campaign promises will resonate with voters, Ann Romney’s fashion sense seems to have struck a chord with some women. The phone has been “ringing off the hook” at de la Renta’s office and in his boutiques, thanks to callers looking to buy the red dress Romney wore, a company spokeswoman said. And that’s not the only outlet they are pursuing. A Saks Fifth Avenue salesman said Thursday, “Everybody wants that dress.”

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