McCain strategist Mark Salter said "about a third of it was returned immediately" because they were the wrong size, or for other reasons.
Salter's explanation was the first time the campaign has said any of the items had been returned.
Last week after the purchases at such high-end department stores as Saks Fifth Avenue and Neiman Marcus appeared in campaign spending reports filed with the government, McCain and his aides repeatedly said the clothes would be donated to charity after the election.
News of such expensive clothes offered a stark contrast to Palin's image as an average "hockey mom."
Tracey Schmitt, Palin's campaign spokeswoman, said some of the clothing was returned after the Republican National Convention in September. The governor generally wears her own outfits on the campaign trail, Schmitt said.
"A third was returned post-convention," she said. "Many of the remaining clothes have never been worn."
Schmitt said Palin intended to donate the items she has worn to charity.
"Regardless, what wasn't returned will go to charity after Election Day," said Schmitt.
Asked about Palin as he was interviewed on NBC's "Meet the Press," McCain rejected the notion that Palin is unqualified to be president and that she is hurting is campaign for the presidency. He also was questioned about the clothing purchases.
"Look, she lives a frugal life. She and her family are not wealthy. She and her family were thrust into this, and there was some - and some third of that money is given back, the rest will be donated to charity," he said.
"Americans right now care about whether they're going to stay in their homes, whether they're going to have a job, whether they're going to be able to keep their health insurance, if we're going to come out of this ditch that we're in," McCain added. "They want change. They want reform. She is a role model to millions and millions and millions of Americans."
Meanwhile, on the trail in Florida on Sunday, Palin had a pointed message for: This thing isn't over yet.
Speaking in Tampa, Fla., Palin sharply criticized Obama for acting as if he's already won the election.
Palin mentioned reports that the Democratic presidential nominee, who is leading in the polls, has already written his inaugural speech. That drew boos from the crowd of more than 5,000 gathered for a rally at the Tampa convention center.
Palin said Obama's campaign "thinks this whole election thing is just a formality."
With just nine days to go before the Nov. 4 election, Palin was making another push in the swing state of Florida, where most polls show Obama leading McCain.