What Message is Melania Trump’s Fashion Sending?
By Stephanie Dawkins, Editor In Chief
As one of the most visible women on the global political stage who is, in many formal and official settings, seen and not heard, what the first lady wears can be interpreted to have meaning. We at Helena Grace Brand want to take a look at how Melania Trump embraces the role clothes play in establishing her identity in the minds of US citizens.
We cannot discuss the role clothes play in perception of the first lady without discussing our former first lady. No first lady in recent memory has understood the role of clothes and perception, as well as Michelle Obama. A woman, whom many in the US affectionately refer to as their “Forever First Lady.”
Before her tenure, many believed, with the exception of the fabulous Jackie Kennedy, the US had not had such a stylish leading lady. Michelle Obama’s timeless style appealed to all generations while her affinity with high-low fashion choices made her feel just like ‘one of us’. At times, she wore affordable brands like J.Crew, ASOS, and Target.
When she wore designer clothing, she was careful to select pieces by American designers like Tom Ford, she is also credited with bolstering the careers of designers of color like Tracy Reese, Naeem Khan, and Jason Wu, to name only a few. These were designers whose businesses she strengthen—and in some cases catapulted from obscurity to household-name-level success. Through her fashion choices, she was relatable, charming and glamourous, but she never allowed fashion to over shadow her role as first lady.
Fashion has often played a leading role during Melania Trump’s tenure as first lady. The notoriously private former model is intentional about her wardrobe choices: the instantly-iconic white hat for the French state visit, her white suit at the State of the Union speech and the pussy bow blouse she donned after the “Access Hollywood” tape surfaced all sent a clear message.
When she travels abroad, she’s careful to choose outfits that conspicuously reflect the country she is visiting, including a belted jumpsuit in Saudi Arabia, her colorful dresses in France and Italy, and her nod to an Asian influence in Japan, China and South Korea Unlike, Michelle Obama, early on, Melania made it clear that she wasn’t necessarily looking to speak to the everyday woman, turning to pricey, custom looks like a blue Ralph Lauren coat or an Hervé Pierre gown (over Inauguration weekend), not to mention the $51,000 Dolce & Gabbana coat she wore for a visit to Italy. The first lady wore a $1,380 shirt to her first White House garden event in September 2017. She wore a $2,950 Delpozo dress while giving a speech at the U.N. and making statements like, “No child should ever feel hungry.” To quote one Twitter user, “That’s obscene.”
Speaking in Egypt at the end of a trip to Africa, Melania appealed for people to “focus on what I do, not what I wear”. But it was difficult to ignore one of her accessories from the tour.
The message of her solo trip to the continent was, she said, to show that: “We care – and we want to show the world we care”. It came months after her husband was reported to have described African nations as “shithole countries” when discussing immigration in the Oval Office.
Nevertheless, it appeared to be going well until she chose a pristine white pith helmet, which has come to symbolize white colonialist rule over the years, to top off her outfit on a guided safari in Nairobi National Park.
It was perhaps meant to be an homage to Out of Africa (1985), in which Meryl Streep plays an independent woman who takes over a farm in Kenya in the 1920s, says CNN.
“However,” says the broadcaster, “with the hat, Trump’s outfit might have tipped the scales, moving from a practical accessory dangerously close to costume territory evocative of colonialists.”
But her most iconic fashion moment, was that infamous trip to the US-Mexico border where she toured an immigrant children’s shelter. She wore an olive green jacket. The back of the jacket read: “I really don’t care. Do u?” in white graffiti-style lettering. It did not matter, that she did not wear it to the children shelter, but the fact that she wore it in association with that particular trip caused many people to question her character as first lady. This sent tsunami waves throughout the world and that one moment changed how many viewed her as FLOTUS.
Unfortunately, her fashion faux pas over shadowed any good she has attempted to do as first lady. She has superb taste in clothing. And despite having one of the most expensive, chic and glamorous wardrobes in the world, many including top fashion designers and magazines editors refuse to acknowledge. Politics aside, the girl can dress and secretly many are green of us are envy of her fashion, especially her undefeated shoe game.
With her fashion, the First Lady invariably sends a message—though it’s not always a clear one. So I am asking the question: Whatcha Trying to Say First Lady?
First Lady Style Moment Including Her Most Controversial Outfits