In the end the most viral moment of Melania Trump’s five-day, four-country solo trip, which came to a close Sunday when she stepped off the plane at Joint Base Andrews, had to do with clothes, as it so often does.
To be specific: her irritation with everyone’s interest in her attire. It happened after she had met other first ladies and heads of state in Kenya, Malawi, Ghana and Egypt, after she had toured hospitals and cuddled babies and pet elephants, after she had done what she could to offer a new, friendlier face of the Trump administration not just to the African world but to everyone else. It happened during an impromptu news conference at the foot of the pyramids.
“I wish people would focus on what I do, not what I wear,” Trump said. Within minutes, her remark was all over social media, along with a picture of her wearing a sand-coloured Ralph Lauren jacket, a white Chanel shirt with a black tie, and a cream fedora. She looked like a character straight from “Out of Africa” crossed with Belloq, the nefarious Frenchman from “Raiders of the Lost Ark.”
It’s a familiar plaint, one often issued by Hillary Clinton. It was almost surprising that Trump didn’t follow it up with the usual corollary: If I were a (first) man, you wouldn’t care about my clothes.
In Africa, Melania gave us Princess Diana crossed with Hollywood.
But the fact is, chafe against it as she will, what she does is inextricably bound up in what she chooses to wear while doing it, and the same would be true of anyone in that role. After all, that’s what you see in the pictures, and the pictures are what most people see first. The clothes are simply a symbol of the actions, and the actor. Is it superficial? No more than paying attention to any kind of symbolism is.
Besides, it’s clear that Trump understands this and dressed this time around, at least to a certain extent, to make a point: to offer a different image to that of her pugnacious husband. If her wardrobe also seemed like a costume donned for a specific public performance, perhaps it is to be expected. This is someone who is a reluctant star in the continuing drama that is this White House, and this is increasingly her approach to the role. If she sometimes gets the props wrong … well, oops.
First lady Melania Trump boards a plane at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi, Kenya, Saturday, Oct. 6, 2018.
So in Africa, instead of a trussed up and guarded trophy wife, resplendent in Louboutins and couture labels, as has been Trump’s style in Washington, we got flat shoes and safari jackets; desert tones and contemporary price points; Princess Diana crossed with Hollywood.
None of that Marie Antoinette-playing-shepherdess donning of the $1,380 Balmain flannel shirt to garden. The first lady even shopped her closet, wearing pants (Polo Ralph Lauren) and jackets (specifically a Veronica Beard style), we’d seen before. Her mien, as social …read more