When Melania Trump stepped on stage with her husband, President Trump, on Friday night for the inaugural balls, she demonstrated that while she may not have been the center of attention during the election, she definitely will make a statement with her first official ‘First Lady’ dress.
In the “off-the-shoulder, white crepe column with a thin burgundy ribbon as a belt, a high slit and a gazar wave curving from sleeve to hip and then down the skirt,” she looked – especially compared to the younger generation of Trump women, most of whom chose a gold, sparkly princess gown – understated and mature.
And despite the questioning of the designer behind the dress, she managed to surprise the entire fashion world.
The gown was, according to a statement from her office, a “collaboration” between Mrs. Trump and the designer Hervé Pierre, a Frenchman who moved to New York in the early 1990s and eventually became creative director of Carolina Herrera, where he and Mrs. Trump met and where he worked on clothes for Laura Bush and Michelle Obama, though largely behind the scenes. This is his first major dress under his own name (he does not yet have a full-fledged collection in that context).
Though rumors had been spread earlier in the week that Mrs. Trump was working with Chanel’s creative director Karl Lagerfeld on her gown, in the end, she used the opportunity. Her entire inaugural wardrobe followed the two simple rules her husband said to follow: buy American and hire American.
After over 20 years in this country, Mr. Pierre counts.
There has been a lot of questioning over whether the office of president will change Mr. Trump such as encourage moderation of his Twitter account or his language. As yet that is unclear, but it does appear to have changed how his family dresses.
On Friday the President wore an overcoat and shirt to the swearing-in said to be by Brooks Brothers, the American men’s wear brand that outfitted 39 presidents before him. Lincoln, Grant, Chester Arthur, Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson and Barack Obama wore Brooks Brothers for their swearing-in ceremonies, and Mr. Obama even wore his overcoat again on Friday when he stood with President Trump.
At evening at the donors’ black tie dinner, the First Lady wore a floor-length nude sequined gown by Reem Acra, the Lebanese-born designer based in New York. And Ivanka Trump wore three different outfits from Oscar de la Renta, a tent-pole name of New York Fashion Week: a forest-green coat and matching dress to Arlington; a white-and-black gown to the donor’s dinner; and a white pantsuit to the swearing-in. (Oscar de la Renta himself dressed both Hillary Clinton and Laura Bush for their husbands’ second inaugural balls; the brand is something of an inaugural go-to.)
The politics of clothing may be subtle, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t an important part of displaying your position in office — especially on a day with more photo opportunities than speeches. They paint a picture of the family that now represents the country, of their ambitions, goals, and values, at a moment when the world is watching. This time, the brush strokes swirled: not with accessibility, but with aspiration, and nationalism.