Melania Trump Is Still Figuring Out This Whole Fashion Diplomacy Thing

The First Lady has an interesting interpretation of “America First.”

FEBRUARY 8, 2017 2:36 PM

Left, Melania Trump arriving at the Palm Beach International Airport dressed in Givenchy on February 3, 2017; Right, Melania arriving at the Red Cross gala at the Mar-a-Lago resort the following day.
Left, from A.P. Images/Rex/Shutterstock; Right, by Joe Raedle/Getty Images.
Melania Trump has been First Lady for two-and-a-half weeks, and the fashion world is closely monitoring the designers she’s chosen to wear. While it was a topic of great debate ahead of her husband’s swearing in, the pubic still has comparatively little to go on to gauge Trump’s official approach to First Lady fashion, given her choice to stay in New York while Barron Trump finishes his school year. One theme does seem to be emerging however, as The New York Times’s chief fashion critic Vanessa Friedman points out today: Trump seems comfortable wearing international designers, despite her husband’s America-first rhetoric.
While Trump notably wore prototypical American designer Ralph Lauren to her husband’s inauguration, she’s been seen of late favoring European houses. Last Friday, she wore a red dress by Givenchy to greet her husband in Palm Beach; the following day, she opted for another French fashion label, Christian Dior. (Neither brand, Friedman reports, sent out a press release to note the dress credit.) In a statement to The New York Times, Melania Trump’s senior adviser Stephanie Winston Wolkoff wrote:
“Mrs. Trump is a proud and longtime supporter of American fashion. She appreciates fashion as art. As a former model, she has always been a patron of the world’s most distinguished designers both here and abroad. Mrs. Trump buys from an international mix of brands because that is what reflects her uniquely American life experience and style. She is more excited than ever to make a platform for American designers as she did on one of the most important weeks in history, the Inauguration, showcasing the extraordinary talents of American designers.”
Trump did wear some American designers over the weekend, including a sweater by Derek Lam. However, the New York-based Lam has gone on the record to say he would not dress the First Lady, which likely means Trump bought it herself. (Vanity Fair has reached out to Derek Lam and Melania Trump’s staff for confirmation.)
Though in later years, Trump’s predecessor occasionally wore European designers, Michelle Obama made it a point to wear clothes designed by Americans early and often in her husband’s presidency, especially during the recession years. While Obama often patronized brands like J Crew—a sign of her everywoman approach to fashion—she also supported American talent like Brandon Maxwell and Cuban-American Narcisco Rodriguez.
That contrasts with Melania Trump’s first outings as a First Lady, especially given her husband’s brand of American exceptionalism. Of course, many American designers were eager to work directly with Obama. Trump’s husband’s seemingly never-ending ability to court controversy will make that kind of collaboration unlikely.
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How First Ladies Have Used Fashion for Diplomacy

Michelle Obama At The Inaugural Ball In 2013

Current First Lady Michelle Obama has made a point of supporting upcoming designers, something that she started the moment her husband was sworn into office. “She clearly understands the power of clothes, furthering the careers of many, many American designers,” Pamela Keogh, author of Jackie Style, told Vanity Fair over e-mail. “When she wore Jason Wu to the first inauguration, he was an absolute unknown, and [she] made his career. She also wore him to the second inauguration.”

Photo: By Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images.

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