The Trump administration is nearing the end of its four-year run, and the one thing that we are going to miss is first lady Melania Trump’s unparalleled fashion sense. Well, that of her stylist, Hervé Pierre.
Say what you will about her aloof personality, occasional mishaps (remember the “I really don’t care” jacket?) and tone-deaf remarks (“Who gives a f*** about Christmas stuff”), but as a first lady, the former model knew how to look like a million bucks (in 2017 she wore a US$51,000 Dolce & Gabbana coat
From Jackie Kennedy in the 1960s to modern-day first ladies like Michelle Obama, the personal style of the female spouses of US presidents has always been a point of contention – and a source of fascination – for the public.
Men are rarely subjected to this type of scrutiny, but women are aware that their outfit choices are fair game for political – and fashion – pundits eager to dissect the tiniest detail of their look.
“You’ll see I wear only grey or blue suits,” former US President Barack Obama said about his fashion sense (or lack thereof) in a 2012 interview with glossy Vanity Fair. “I’m trying to pare down decisions. I don’t want to make decisions about what I’m eating or wearing. Because I have too many other decisions to make.”
Needless to say, the same standards don’t apply to women in the public sphere, from those in office such as Hillary Clinton or Nancy Pelosi, to political consorts like Michelle Obama – who always made a point of letting her clothes add to the conversation. Sometimes loudly, other times less so.
Truth be told, some of the previous first lady’s choices were not always spot on, but whether she wore an affordable J. Crew cardigan to make herself relatable or a Versace gown at a state dinner for Italy, she knew how to play the fashion diplomacy game.
Melania Trump, on the other hand, has never been afraid of alienating constituencies with her pricey frocks and collections of ultra luxurious Hermès bags.
Approachable is not a word in her fashion lexicon.
She is a true clothes horse, and her expensive taste is the epitome of what a privileged woman who jets between Manhattan and Palm Beach wears to look fabulous.
She is a fan of fashion with a capital F: Dior, Chanel, Gucci, Valentino – the list goes on and on, and doesn’t include as many American designers as you might think. Although a strong allegiance to US brands is expected of US first ladies, “Make America Great Again” clearly doesn’t seem to apply to Melania Trump’s Italian- and French-leaning wardrobe.
For her, looking good is paramount, and that she has managed to pull off impeccable outfit after impeccable outfit over four years of public engagements is no small feat. Here’s a look at some of her most memorable.
Before becoming first lady, Melania Trump made a grand entrance at the 2016 Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio. For her first high-profile speech, she wore a US$2,190 white dress with balloon sleeves from London-based Serbian designer Roksanda Ilincic.
Trump is a fan of white, which complements her bronzed complexion, and wore a white gown created by French-born, New York-based designer Hervé Pierre at the Inauguration Freedom Ball in Washington in January 2017.
Pierre is also her trusted stylist.
The first lady wore a cashmere dress and matching suede gloves from Ralph Lauren for Trump’s swearing-in ceremony.
For the swearing-in ceremony at the Inauguration, the first lady braved the Washington cold clad in a sky-blue cashmere dress and matching suede gloves from all-American designer Ralph Lauren, who has also dressed Trump rival Hillary Clinton for many high-profile engagements.
Melania Trump made headlines when she wore a US$51,000 Dolce & Gabbana coat for a G7 appearance in Sicily, the Mediterranean island long associated with the brand. Unlike many designers who have kept a low profile when dressing the first lady or outright refused to dress her, Dolce & Gabbana’s co-founder Stefano Gabbana has always been open about his support for her.
For an event with children from the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Washington at the White House kitchen garden in 2017, Melania Trump showed up in a “gardening outfit” that included a US$1,380 plaid shirt from French label Balmain, a favourite of the Kardashian family and French first lady Brigitte Macron.
When she visited Saudi Arabia in 2017, the first lady flouted local customs and opted out of the customary head coverings women wear in the country. She still managed to look modest and chic in a black Stella McCartney pantsuit accessorised with an oversized gold belt from French label Saint Laurent.
For her most high-profile engagement during a visit to China in 2017 – a state dinner at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing – Melania Trump paid homage to her host country with a Chinese-inspired embroidered black dress featuring fur cuffs. The maker of the piece is yet another Italian label: Gucci.
Melania Trump chose a quintessential French brand, Chanel, for a state dinner at the White House in Washington in 2018 in honour of France. The shimmering couture gown embellished with silver sequins was a nice counterpoint to French first lady Macron’s white and gold dress from Louis Vuitton.
For a 2018 trip to Egypt, where she toured the pyramids in Giza, the first lady created the perfect photo op with an Out of Africa-themed mannish ensemble that included a Ralph Lauren pantsuit paired with a Chanel blouse and a panama hat.
Melania Trump stunned the world when she wore a Zara jacket emblazoned with the words “I really don’t care. Do U?” on her way to visit immigrant children at a detention centre on the US-Mexico border. According to reports, the jab was directed at the “fake news media”. This was a rare instance in which she overtly used her clothes to send a message (and also a rare sighting of her in a “cheap and chic” high-street brand).
Attending a state banquet at Buckingham Palace in London to celebrate diplomatic ties between the US and the UK, Melania Trump complemented Queen Elizabeth’s white gown by wearing a white evening dress with matching gloves from French couture house Dior.
The demure white dress of her first convention appearance in 2016 was a distant memory four years later. At her speech in the White House Rose Garden
during the 2020 Republican Convention, the first lady chose a sharp tailored look with military undertones from British brand Alexander McQueen.
Criticised for not wearing a mask amid the coronavirus pandemic on Election Day earlier this month in Florida, Melania Trump cast her ballot clad in a summery dress from Gucci paired with one of those covetable Hermès bags that she is so fond of. Little did she know that her reign as one of the most stylish first ladies in US history would be cut short after only one term.
So often people are working hard at the wrong thing. Working on the right thing is probably more important than working hard.