Dressing up for the good of the state


July 28, 2006|By LAURA VOZZELLA

Robert Ehrlich's strategy for pumping up the state's economy seems to hinge on unglamorous stuff, like preparing for military base realignments and killing Wal-Mart bills. But his secret weapon turns out to be tres chic: couture. Couture in the form of a white, four-ply silk crepe gown with chiffon detailing, from the designer who has decked out the likes of Sharon Stone and Paris Hilton. Kendel Ehrlich models the $2,200 Pamella Roland dress in the summer issue of Washington Life magazine. And ever since the Annapolis fashion spread hit the newsstands, women have been flocking to the Chevy Chase boutique Saks Jandel, looking for the first lady's dress.

Ka-ching, right into the state sales tax coffers!

The first lady, who appears with three young naval officers in dress whites, didn't get to keep the A-strapped number. (Dang! No scandal there.) And Ehrlich wasn't about to buy it, even though she has had to shell out for formal attire.

"I haven't hit the $2,000 range," Ehrlich told me.

But the gown is suddenly hanging in a number of home closets.

"When someone of an influential nature is in a magazine like that, we always get calls," said Saks Jandel manager Sue Palumbo, adding, "She couldn't be a better model."

So, how many gowns have they sold? And more to the point, how much dough has landed, as a result, in the state treasury?

Think the boutique would blab? You'd have better luck getting info out of the Washington steakhouse that served Michael Steele that drippy egg the other day.

"We like to keep our clients and our exclusivity within the store," Palumbo said.

Kenneth Marks, director of sales and marketing for the New York designer, would only confirm that the Kendel effect had made registers ring at Saks Jandel. "They sold off it," he said.

Even more tight-lipped were sellers of the $11,000 diamond earrings Ehrlich modeled. ("They were just great- looking, the kind of thing you don't want to give back," she told me. Though, shucks again, she did give them back.) Liljenquist & Beckstead in Bethesda wouldn't say if any women have come looking for the first lady's sparkly accessories.

So what did Ehrlich get out of it? Just the queen-for-the-day thing, though the first lady said it was more like queen-for-half-an-hour, between meetings.

"It was really fun to have people pamper you and make you up and take care of your hair," she said. "It goes to show you, everybody can look great."

Too well-dressed to hide

So why did the Steele camp fess up so quickly? Deep Throat held his tongue for decades. Yet the lieutenant governor stepped forward just hours after The Washington Post went to press.

Inside-the-Beltway types say the whole thing was calculated, that the Republican Senate candidate wanted to be outed as a closet administration critic. But I'm betting that these personal clues, which hint at snazzy dressing and persnickety eating, were Steele's undoing.

"The candidate looked the part of the contender, wearing a monogrammed shirt, his French cuffs sprouting cuff links coordinated with his necktie," The Post's Dana Milbank wrote of the anonymous Bush-basher. "He ate carefully, removing the gelatinous yolk from the four-minute egg in his salad."

Then again, we all knew Deep Throat smoked and drank Scotch.

Every dog has his day

Martin O'Malley's son and mother have starred in campaign commercials for the aspiring governor. Now the family dog is getting into the act, according to a spoof ad on the Chip Franklin show on WBAL. "I'm Ralph, Mayor O'Malley's dog," it begins. "Now, I'm a dog and I can't vote in this election. Wait a minute - this is Maryland. I'm already registered twice. So come Election Day, throw a bone to my master."

But we're all still fringe, right?

I goofed on a Rush Limbaugh item that ran the other day, which quoted him saying, "Maryland is not a Democrat state. Maryland is a far-left kook fringe state."

My goof had to do with attribution. An editor spotted the quote on DCRTV.com, a Web site that covers area radio and television. He e-mailed it to me as possible column fodder. I assumed he had gotten it straight from WMAL. But in fact, he'd seen it posted on DCRTV.com. The subject line of the editor's message said, "from dcrtv.com," but I overlooked it.

So let me try again: "Rush Limbaugh the other day, via WMAL, via DCRTV.com, via The Sun's Steve Sullivan: "Maryland is not a Democrat state. Maryland is a far-left kook fringe state."

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