Does it really take £90,000 (the amount Sarah Palin's campaign wardrobe has cost so far) to cut it on the global stage? Other leading political ladies have done better with smaller budgets

SARAH PALIN

Jacket: £184, Elie Tahari
Who knows why Palin thought this ode to Michael Jackson circa 1986 would be a good idea for outerwear on her campaign trail? This ill-fitting red leather effort looks brash as well as cheap and appears an odd item to team with a black pencil skirt. Pursuing the opposite sartorial approach to Sam Cam, she wears clothes that look as if they belong on the high street, but actually cost a fortune.

MICHELLE OBAMA

Dress £595, Moschino
Obama wears designer fashion with confidence and has a wardrobe that includes clothes by Alexander McQueen, Thakoon and the Chicago designer Maria Pinto. For once, though, Obama has forsaken her highly polished power dressing in favour of something very feminine and girlie. The dress appears fresh, modern and, most importantly, approachable.

Shoes: Giuseppe Zanotti, £350
Another politician's wife who takes the flats route, but instead of opting for boring ballet pumps, Obama settles for the Italian glitz of these silver mock-croc shoes. Additional accessories are kept to a minimum.

CARLA BRUNI

Jacket: Dior £1,430
Bruni he might be wearing navy blue wool crepe, but note the seductive off-the-shoulder detail. Ever the femme fatale, she looks as if she's posing in a fashion shoot rather than attending a UN conference.

Skirt: Dior, £445
Bruni has made the thigh-skimming pencil skirt and flat shoe combo her own, chiefly because no one else can pull it off. To ensure that no one is snapped in similar outfits, she usually wears clothes that have come straight off the catwalk.

Bag: Dior, £8,180
Ouch, but real croc doesn't come cheap. These “First Lady” bags pull her outfit together.

Shoes: Tod's, £195
The only label Bruni wears from her homeland - this is the jet set's footwear of choice. The patent finish and metal-cubed tassels add glamour.

SAMANTHA CAMERON

Jacket: Joseph, £345
A great, on-trend-colour jacket that is structured but not too tight-fitting or boxy and looks smart without crossing the line into “work-a-day”. Cameron achieves the delicate balancing act of appearing young-ish and in touch with the voter but not too much of a fashion victim.

Top: Reiss, £95
If there's one thing the creative director of Smythson understands, it's colour. A big tick for mismatching this bold, turquoise, textured top with a red jacket and navy skirt. A bigger tick for shopping at British label Reiss.

Belt: Reiss, £49
Cameron illustrates her knowledge of the season's trends once again by opting for this grey leather belt. Cinching at the waist means her skirt fits well and clothes hang properly.

Shoes: L.K. Bennett, £125
Trusty, reasonably priced pumps from another British high street store. Sleek, elegant and patent, these are far from fusty and the mid-heel means that the Tory wife can actually walk in them.

SARAH BROWN

Dress: Jaeger, £350
The Prime Minister's wife has received a lot of flak for the white Jaeger jacket she wore when the Sarkozys visited Britain in March, but that was mostly because her outfit appeared crumpled. Brown prefers neutrals, but wowed London Fashion Week in this purple Jaeger dress. As well as this 125-year-old brand, she favours outfits by the Scottish designer Graeme Black and the Swedish-American hedge-fund-manager-cum-fashion-entrepreneur Britt Lintner.
Necklace: A gift from her mother, which adds a personal touch to her outfit, preventing her from becoming a clotheshorse.