First lady Melania Trump is notoriously private about her time as first lady. But her public appearances never fail to spark headlines, and sometimes, conspiracy theories that dive into her wardrobe choices. Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.
Anytime first lady Melania Trump says, does, or wears anything, it seems to spark countless headlines. CNN reporter and Melania expert Kate Bennett wrote about the notoriously private first lady's fashion choices extensively in her book, "Free, Melania: The Unauthorized Biography." In it, Bennett floated her own educated guesses as to the choices that led to certain show-stopping looks. But the first lady has rarely vocalized the reasoning behind her fashion choices. Her own stylist for the 2019 State of the Union said he focused on the look rather than sending a political message. Overall, Bennett wrote that she believes there are no coincidences when it comes to the first lady's fashion choices. "Having covered her for as long as I have, each thing she does has meaning to it, even the clothing she wears," Bennett wrote. Based on Bennett's book and countless news stories focused on the first lady's sartorial choices, here are 13 times Trump appeared to put a deliberate foot forward in specific colors, designers, and price tags.SEE ALSO: 10 of the biggest takeaways from a new book on Melania Trump that reveal her fashion, strategy, and life inside the White House DON'T MISS: Little-known facts about every American first lady The "pussy-bow" blouse offered an uncanny connection to one of then-candidate Trump's biggest scandals.
The October 2016 presidential debate came two days after the "Access Hollywood" tape leaked showing Donald Trump saying in 2005 he could "grab" women "by the p---y" because "when you're a star they let you do it." To the event, Melania wore a $1,100 pink pussy-bow Gucci shirt, smiling beside her husband. Bennett wrote that the blouse was a peak example of no coincidences in Melania's wardrobe choices. She made an elegant and monochromatic entrance to her life in the White House.
Melania's powder blue Ralph Lauren ensemble immediately drew comparisons to former first lady and American fashion icon Jackie Kennedy. Bennett wrote that this was one of the outfits the first lady worked on the most, and that it came straight from her own vision of how she would like to be officially introduced to the world. She flipped the script for the 2018 and 2019 State of the Union speeches.
The first lady raised eyebrows with outfits that were stark opposites of purpose-driven color schemes. In 2018, she wore a white pantsuit that stood out in a sea of Democrats who were clad in black in honor of the Time's Up and #MeToo movements. In 2019, Melania wore a black Burberry coatdress, the opposite of the white outfits worn on the other side of the aisle to celebrate women's suffrage. Though her exact intention in selecting the outfits is still unclear, the pictures show a first lady who is unafraid to stand out. When playing host, some of the first lady's dresses contain possible nods to her guests.
One such possible hint lied in the Hervé Pierre green dress that Bennett wrote could have been in honor of the Jordanian flag while she greeted Queen Raina in Washington. Despite an apparently obvious connection, Bennett wrote that, per usual, "everyone would have to settle with the gray area because Melania stayed typically mum on her outfit choices." Bennett theorized that the massive gold belt and necklace she wore in Saudi Arabia was a nod to the Kingdom.
The Saint Laurent python belt later sold out on Net-a-Porter.com after enjoying the spotlight on the Trumps' May 2017 trip. Bennett wrote that the statement touches were "as if to say, 'Hey, Saudi Arabia, friend. We like gold, you like gold, we get you. Everything is cool.'" Anytime she wears a coat that's propped up on her shoulders, Bennett writes, it can be seen as a "rich person move."
Not only has Trump "pretty much single-handedly brought back the coat as a principal player," Bennett wrote that she ups the ante on styling by just perching the coat on her shoulders, which limits her range of motion, but also highlights that she is able to get doors opened and things carried for her. In addition to many of her coats costing in the thousands of dollars, the styling move certainly gives a VIP vibe. Melania combines being first lady with a travel wardrobe in a unique way that counts on several factors.
Unlike her im meditate predecessor Michelle Obama, Bennett wrote that Melania hasn't gone to lengths to highlight regionally specific designers based on the first couple's destination, but rather picks an outfit based on the nature of the appearance. One of the first lady's favorite location-specific choices is wearing Dior in its native Paris. She made a splash on her first trip to France as first lady, where she wore a suit jacket and skirt in the luxury house's signature silhouette and a head-to-toe red that could be taken as a nod to her husband's Republican allies or to one-third of the French flag. Dressing down, despite the price tag, for her first appearance alongside children in the White House garden made waves.
Trump took up Michelle Obama's track record of hosting events emphasizing healthy food and active childhoods by sporting Converse sneakers and a casual plaid shirt. However, the first lady became a target for critics who tracked down the shirt, which was made by French fashion house Balmain for $1,380. The casual-but-luxe shirt appeared to be in keeping with the high-end wardrobe she was used to, but with the new consciousness of being officially on display. In general, her forays into menswear have earned her fashion cred and sparked a theory with Bennett.
Bennett wrote that she suspects there are some patterns to Melania's choices, as with her "theory that when the Trumps are unhappy with each other, Melania wears menswear — because Trump notoriously likes to see women in tight, short, ubersexy and feminine dresses." The first lady's menswear tendencies didn't go unnoticed throughout her first year in the White House, especially after she chose a suit for her official portrait outfit. When she wore an actual message, she later denied that a surface-level reading carries any meaning.
The jacket sparked fierce backlash when it was spotted on the first lady's trip to the border amid controversy over the administration's "zero tolerance" immigration policy. Months after the jacket's debut, the first lady said in a candid interview with ABC News that she thought it was "obvious" the jacket's message was not "for the children," but just a jacket "to go on the plane and off the plane." "I believed, and still do, that the jacket was a facetious jab at Ivanka and her near-constant attempts to attach herself for positive administration talking points," Bennett wrote. Bennett also described the first lady's relationship with Ivanka as "cordial, not close," and that her stepdaughter's formal role as a senior adviser "intimidated" Melania. After nearly two years in the first-lady spotlight, she notably nailed a practical look down to the footwear.
While many critics focused on the stiletto heels she wore to board Marine One at the White House (sparking countless headlines in the process), fewer noticed the first lady changed into a pair of Timberland boots for a visit to hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico in October 2017. More than a year later, Melania sported what appear to be the same pair of boots for a military appearance. Though the choice seemed like a walk on the practical side for the usually heeled first lady, she yet again sparked criticism for seeming "out of touch," as they were not combat boots. Insider lifestyle editor Chloe Pantazi wrote that "the backlash over her boots is not warranted." Melania raised some eyebrows when she took an "almost costume-like" approach to dressing for a safari in Kenya.
Bennett wrote that Melania's October 2018 look, which included jodhpur pants, brown boots, and a pith helmet, seemed straight out of a movie. The outfit also caught the eye of critics, who connected the hat to its roots in colonialism that had invaded the continent, making the outfit a massive miss despite the intention. A menswear-inspired look ended her tour of Africa with a dramatic flourish.
In a fashion-forward look that prompted comparisons to everything from Michael Jackson to Carmen Sandiego, the first lady made a bold appearance on her own in front of the press to tie up her time in Africa. The outfit could have been an effort to not be outdone by the ancient wonders around her, or a definitively bold image to underline her first solo trip abroad. But since the first lady and her staff are notoriously mum on any hidden messages behind Melania's clothing choices, we may never really know for sure.
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