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(On the Runway)

c.2012 New York Times News Service

Much as the tone of the presidential debates has evolved over the last few weeks, discussion of the fashion choices of the candidates and their wives has also become almost artificially overheated, probably because of our own high expectations that Michelle Obama and Ann Romney will settle this whole thing by wearing a really knockout dress. Still, it didn't happen.

During the Monday night debate, the online conversation was dominated by the significance of Obama wearing a Thom Browne dress that she had previously worn at the Democratic National Convention. See, even though the gray dress with black lace overlay was custom-made, she is not a spendthrift, or as Fashionista.com noted, "We have to give Flotus a slight edge for shopping her closet."

Romney wore an emerald green dress by Oscar de la Renta with a fetching leafy print on the skirt. The relevant point here being that the dress was by de la Renta, perhaps a thorn in the side of Obama, whose fashion choices the designer has criticized.

But it could be read as a positive sign that on Twitter, much of the sartorial debate this time centered on the candidates themselves. Mitt Romney's glossy hair was discussed in great detail, prompting Sarah Brown, the beauty director of Vogue, to ask, "Wet hair or runway gloss spray?"

Keeping the barbs bipartisan, Jane Larkworthy, the beauty director of W, speculated that Barack Obama "had been to the Botox man." GQ Politics thought he was wearing "one of those David Byrne Big Suits."

There was some disagreement as to which candidate had tied the better knot in his necktie. Romney's tie was red with possibly lilac stripes, and one "World's No. 1 Dad" slogan short of qualifying as an example of what not to give for Father's Day.

Anyway, Larkworthy said Romney had won that category.