How Melania Could Bring Her A-Game
There’s about to be a new First Lady in town. As of January 20th, Melania Trump will be in the White House. And as with all former First Ladies, what she wears will obviously have an impact on both the fashion industry and on style watchers across the country—and the world.
Melania will have some very big pumps to fill. Michelle Obama was revered by the fashion world and its fans for her sophisticated but joyful style know-how; her skill with mixing high and low price points (from J. Crew to Thom Browne); her willingness to give new designers a chance (she donned everyone from Jason Wu to Joseph Altuzarra); and her championing of the industry at large—she hosted the very first Fashion Education Workshop at the White House, unveiled the Anna Wintour Costume Center at The Met, and graced the cover of Vogue no less than three times.
Trump, who has definitely had some first-rate fashion moments (I loved her in that dusty pink Emilia Wickstead blouse when she gave a speech in Philadelphia, and in her white cutout Mugler dress at the Time 100 Gala) will enter the White House faced with the challenge to move her wardrobe beyond just her current penchant for expensive, off-the-rack European designers (on the campaign trail she favored the likes of Gucci, Roksanda, and Roland Mouret). Ralph Lauren has shown up in her choices as well (as he did in her all-white white RL jumpsuit at her husband’s acceptance speech and black jumpsuit at the final presidential debate), and my advice would be to lean toward wearing even more of the American designer’s classic creations—as well as to embrace many other American designers. Doing so sends a clear message of support to the country’s industry, and to the many young designers hoping to join it.
Shaking things up aesthetically and in terms of price points would also be a great choice for Trump. So far, her outfits have tended toward solid-color, conservative, and careful pieces. As a former model (though not of the high fashion sort), she looks great in all of it, but a few younger, fresher patterns and edgier cuts would look equally great, and would send a message of energetic excitement. Melania’s very conservative clothing choices are understandable given her past career decisions to be photographed in various states of undress; she needs to be careful now not to harken back to that image by avoiding dressing too provocatively. (As First Lady, her primary focus needs to be on being a role model.) But that doesn’t mean she couldn’t also keep it classy while still having fun and showing some joie de vivre in what she wears—as Obama did in choices like her floral Tracey Reese dresses, her funky, multi-patterned knee-length Self-Portrait frock, complete with mesh neckline, and her playfully colorful Duro Olowu skirts.
Taking another cue from Obama in choosing high and low price points would also be an important move for Trump. Her choices to consistently wear pieces like the $2,645 Roland Mouret off-the-shoulder knit dress at the first debate, the $2,190 white bell-sleeve Roksanda dress at the Republican National Convention, and the $1,100 Gucci pussy-bow crepe de chine blouse at the second debate in St. Louis (which caused an Internet dust-up for its name alone, since her husband’s claims about grabbing women’s bodies without their permission had just been revealed). Those kinds of prices are great if you can afford them, but in representing a country of Americans with diverse incomes, it would be smart of Melania to add in some less expensive pieces here and there, as well. After all, fashion is at its best when it’s as accessible and inspirational as it is aspirational.