If anything, Sarah’s Shopping Spree is more a dark comedy than a romantic one: It’s a story about a makeover, sure, but a makeover imposed rather than chosen. One not about the empowerment of the individual, but about the tyranny of the image. Just as it’s absurd to say that the occasional $400 haircut disqualifies a politician from advocating for the poor (“Edwards, John”), it’s also absurd to suggest that to be fit for Gio Armani is therefore to be unfit for Joe the Plumber. But that’s what the media are suggesting when they treat Palin’s wardrobe “malfunction” as a malfunction in the first place. There are plenty of criticisms to be made of Palin—her cheerful culture warriorhood, her willful incuriosity about the world, her general unpreparedness to assume the office of the vice president—but let’s keep the censure focused on substance. Let’s not tear Palin apart simply for dressing a part.

Megan Garber is an assistant editor at the Nieman Journalism Lab at Harvard University. She was formerly a CJR staff writer.