Two weeks eliminated, I’m in nearly no method mourning the top of the Trump administration. From life-or-death matters to extra petty issues just like the quality of our conversations, Donald Trump’s tenure within the White Home made America worse by nearly each conceivable metric.
Besides one, perhaps! As Slate’s sporadic trend correspondent, I didn’t hate the time I spent poring over Melania Trump’s outfits. The previous first woman didn’t do many issues price writing about—and those she did had been usually racist, stupid, or in any other case contemptible—however her garments had been usually compelling to me, a reality I’ve resisted lengthy sufficient. Prefer it or not, since first women haven’t any official policy-making function, trend is likely one of the few arenas by which they’ll shine—and Melania usually did, in pleasingly unusual methods.
There have been some items of Melania’s wardrobe I genuinely preferred. One of many few issues she and I share in widespread is a proclivity for pussy bows and voluminous sleeves, so I needed to begrudgingly respect the pink Gucci blouse she wore to an in any other case horrifying presidential debate in 2016, and the two putting Delpozo ensembles she sported within the fall of 2017. I dug the disco vibes of the wide-legged jumpsuits she wore on a visit to Riyadh in 2017 and at Trump’s marketing campaign kickoff in 2020, which she paired with metallic belts that had been gigantic and merely huge, respectively. I used to be considerably wowed by the outsized goldenrod-and-fuchsia Valentino cape that threatened to swallow her entire throughout a go to with Prince Charles and Camilla in 2019. It minimize a cheeky determine towards the stuffy backdrop of the prince’s residence, and it seemed moderately cozy for a December journey to London.
However largely, when I discovered myself appreciating a Melania outfit, it was as a result of her wardrobe was largely out of step with first woman custom, and steadily straight-up bizarre. She eschewed each the demure, pastel-and-patriotic mien traditionally related to the function and the newer J. Crew populism of Michelle Obama in favor of brilliant colours, architectural silhouettes, and relentless stiletto pumps. She wore what she needed, and what she needed was big-name European designers, Barbie heels, signifiers of upper-crust leisure, and the type of outsized sun shades related to celebrities who wish to evade the paparazzi. She appeared to present no thought to what message her selection of clothes despatched to the tons of of thousands and thousands of individuals watching—even because it was usually the one message she delivered. In one of many Trump administration’s few forays into honesty, her spokeswoman told the Washington Post, “She doesn’t fear about her critics or paying tribute to particular designers.” Truthful sufficient!
A few of Melania’s selections felt extra within the mode of Fox Information anchor than first woman: She wore naked legs underneath a red Givenchy minidress in certainly one of her first appearances within the function, and he or she was no stranger to visible cleavage or high-cut slits in leather-based skirts. Others had been specific departures from conference: What was the cope with the primary couple’s matching tuxedos in its remaining White Home Christmas card? Beneath another president, there would have been countless evaluation of that symbolism-rich picture. However given the regular stream of Trump administration outrages and the data that there was by no means any hidden that means to something Melania did, it barely registered.
Many extra Melania outfits had been merely weird, revealing a complete lack of awareness—or curiosity in—how her presence affected and interacted along with her environment. Why oh why, as an example, would she put on lime inexperienced on the final night time of the 2020 Republican Nationwide Conference? The Valentino robe was high-quality by itself, but it surely clashed with every part else: the plenteous flags, the carpeting, the black-and-blue palette established by her members of the family. In photographs, brightened by artwork administrators for publication, the costume was much more garish, its blown-out color obscuring its decadent pleats. This was the costume of a lady who couldn’t be bothered to think about herself as a part of a workforce, or to think about how her clothes would possibly look exterior the context of a stylist’s rack, runway, or purple carpet.
Melania’s stunted understanding of trend additionally resulted in hilariously on-the-nose getups. She favored cargo jackets and olive drab when visiting the troops. She wore a purple plaid cape for a Christmas-tree occasion and an autumnal brocade (a tribute to your grandmother’s couch) to assist pardon a Thanksgiving turkey. A visit to Egypt referred to as for a cream fedora and slacks—Indiana Jones, however make it trend (and dry-clean it). To play up the dual threats of closely armed civilians and rising nationalism, Melania cosplayed in a militia-chic battle jacket for her 2020 RNC speech. The worst on this class was the pith helmet she wore in Kenya, on the identical 2018 tour that included her Egypt second, in addition to a number of different appearances in olive drab and safari gear. Sure, it was colonialist, but it surely was additionally an indication that Melania approached her each first-lady obligation as a sort of themed photoshoot, à la America’s Next Top Model. Whereas the world held its breath ready for a unstable president’s subsequent strikes, Melania performed dress-up.
Nonetheless, even because the Trump presidency stretched over an interminable 4 years, I by no means bored with maintaining with Melania’s wardrobe. My endurance owed partly to her unabashed embrace of luxurious—I don’t rue the minutes I spent ogling the craftsmanship on that $51,500 Dolce & Gabbana coat—and to the satisfying caricature she offered of a wealthy woman whose total identification is being happy with being wealthy. You possibly can see it in the way in which she never put her arms in her coat sleeves however made certain to half-pop the collars on the button-down shirts she wore for pure catastrophe visits and different down-‘n’-dirty events. There are many smarmy would-be billionaires, like Kelly Loeffler, who’ll drive themselves into trucker hats and flannel on the marketing campaign path to approximate a working-class aesthetic. I’ll at all times want the honesty of Melania.
There aren’t any broad takeaways from Melania’s 4 years within the trend highlight. Her type simply wasn’t that deep. She thought-about the function of political partner beneath her, and her disdain got here by way of in her garments. She dressed for the cameras, however not for the job. The one time she did attempt to make a press release along with her clothes—the “I actually don’t care do u?” jacket, which she wore on a visit to go to migrant youngsters—it was an enormous fail: Even supposing the inane sentence was actually written on her again, it was totally inscrutable. Was it making a mockery of the plight of migrant households? A jab at Ivanka? An attempt at trolling the “liberal media” she hated?
Nobody ever figured it out. Did we care? Not likely. In the long run, the jacket information cycle was a great metaphor for the function Melania’s trend performed within the administration, at the least for me. Within the midst of the sustained human rights abuses enacted by her husband, it was a aid to be briefly diverted by one thing fully inconsequential.
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