I’ve written about FLOTUS Melania Trump’s attire before. The first time was her powder blue Ralph Lauren Inauguration suit. Everything from the choice of an American designer to her Jackie Kennedy-inspired aesthetic demonstrated that Melania was trying to convey the image of American royalty (an image Jack & Jackie had accomplished). It was strategic, as many of her outfits have been. She wore Ralph Lauren that day because she recognized the importance of wearing an American designer as she and her husband were sworn in as the leading family of the free world. It was incredibly calculated.
That’s why I struggle to believe that the jacket she wore to the Upbring New Hope Children’s Shelter, a Texas detention center for undocumented minors, doesn’t mean anything.
At least that’s what her spokesperson Stephanie Grisham claims. When Melania boarded her plane to Texas she was photographed in a $39 spring/summer 2016 collection Zara jacket emblazoned with the saying: ‘I really don’t care, do u?”, and the public was outraged.
According to Bustle, “Grisham denies that there was any message behind FLOTUS’ jacket in an email to Bustle, writing, ‘It’s just a jacket. There was no hidden message. After today’s important visit to Texas, I hope the media isn’t going to choose to focus on her wardrobe. (Much like her high heels last year.)'”
Oh, Stephanie, there is a message, though. According to The Washington Post, at least 2,300 children have been displaced and separated from their parents since the Administration’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy- a policy which President Trump later changed his mind about as nonchalantly as one changes their mind about ordering a soup instead of a salad. Therefore the message we are getting from your jacket is that you simply don’t care about the traumatized children you’re visiting. It’s not “hidden,” it’s blatant.
Fashion DOES mean something which is why politicians have been using style for years to subliminally communicate with the world. Do we have to mention Hillary Clinton’s power suits and strategic use of the color white, a hue associated with the suffragette movement and purity? Or what about Barack Obama’s dad jeans that proved he was “one of us”? Or what about Michelle Obama’s affinity for J. Crew that showed she didn’t need expensive labels? Oh, oh! And let’s not forget how Meghan Markle’s wedding veil featured hand-sewn tributes to all 53 countries in the Commonwealth.
Clothing is a way to speak without using our voices. In this digital age, a photo really does speak a thousand words, so we can’t afford to make reckless outfit decisions. In our FLOTUS’ case, her jacket spoke volumes. It said, “I don’t care about these traumatized families.” Yet, we could argue it actually says, “I don’t care enough to think.”
Maybe the FLOTUS didn’t take a second to think about her outfit decision on this important day, but that would be dumbfounding. This event follows her visit to Houston after Hurricane Harvey destroyed a nearby city. That day she was scrutinized and attacked by the public for wearing stilettos to the site. (She later changed into white tennis shoes, but the public frenzy had already broken out.) So it baffles me to assume she just “didn’t think” about the green parka’s message. After all, she did wear sneakers on this Border visit, so she learned something from past mistakes.
Perhaps our FLOTUS thought wearing an outdated jacket from a fast fashion company would make her relatable (like Michelle). Perhaps she thought it was practical for the day and would go along well with her Stan Smiths, which she remembered to wear this time. Perhaps she thought it was appropriate because it was casual. And even though she put all of this thought into those gritty details, she didn’t take the time to read the fine print. Literally. And that’s what has us all shocked.
It must be difficult having to pretend to care all the time.
Side note: I don’t believe, as the President has tweeted, that this is a message to the “Fake News Media,” nor do I believe the conspiracy theory that her jacket is a middle-finger to her husband.