Melania Trump, White Hat
The first lady’s choice of headgear made quite a statement on the second day of the French state visit.
Brigitte Macron, left, the wife of French President Emmanuel Macron, and the first lady, Melania Trump, in the National Gallery of Art in Washington.
Brigitte Macron, left, the wife of French President Emmanuel Macron, and the first lady, Melania Trump, in the National Gallery of Art in Washington.Credit…Erin Schaff for The New York Times
By Vanessa Friedman
April 24, 2018
Maybe Melania Trump really is the hero of this particular story.
How else to interpret her decision to wear a statement-making, broad-brimmed severe white hat Tuesday morning to greet the French President Emmanuel Macron and his wife, Brigitte, as they arrived at the White House on the second day of their state visit?
Online commenters had a variety of interpretations. Some saw Beyoncé (people see Beyoncé in everything).
I’m not disparaging @FLOTUS at all, but why is she out here looking Carmen San Diego playing @Beyonce in the Formation video? pic.twitter.com/RkYX1qiOvk
— Naturally Phenomenal (@Mtntop_Climber) April 24, 2018
Others saw Jude Law in “The Young Pope.”
Still others, Olivia Pope from “Scandal.”
The “Scandal” comparison may be the most instructive, if not the most amusing. When Olivia wore her white hat, which matched her white coats, it was always to demonstrate she was really one of “the good guys.”
Could it be the same for Mrs. Trump?
After all, according to the folks at Merriam-Webster, one of the definitions of “white hat” is “one who is admirable and honorable.” Also, “a mark or symbol of goodness.” In the iconography of the Western, the good guys wore white hats, and the bad ones black. Today, it’s the same in the hacking community.
Emmanuel Macron and his wife, Brigitte, at the Lincoln Memorial after their arrival yesterday.
Emmanuel Macron and his wife, Brigitte, at the Lincoln Memorial after their arrival yesterday.Credit…Eric Baradat/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
It’s possible Mrs. Trump is not aware of this and just, well, liked the idea of the decorum of a hat. Except she has something of a history of using white suits to send what seem like fairly pointed messages; see her decision to wear white — associated with women’s rights in the form of the suffragist movement, as well as Hillary Clinton — to her husband’s first State of the Union address, which happened to be her first high-profile appearance with him after the Stormy Daniels scandal broke.
It turns out that the hat she wore on Tuesday was specially made, commissioned by Mrs. Trump’s sometime stylist Herve Pierre to match the white Michael Kors skirt suit she was wearing. Which was not, in case anyone was wondering, the same Michael Kors white skirt suit she wore in Israel during her first foreign trip with her husband, though it was similar.
But back to the hat. It wasn’t an accidental accessory.
Mrs. Trump, left, and Mrs. Macron at the National Gallery of Art on Tuesday.
Mrs. Trump, left, and Mrs. Macron at the National Gallery of Art on Tuesday.Credit…Erin Schaff for The New York Times
The scrutiny and symbolism that would be attached to every part of the first state visit of the Trump administration cannot have escaped either the Macron camp or the Trump camp (see: the details regarding the use of the Clinton and Bush china, dinner ingredients from a vegetable garden originally planted during the Obama years, and cherry blossoms as decoration).
Mrs. Macron seemingly tackled the issue by sticking with a wardrobe — the bright pink coat worn to deplane, the yellow coat she wore to Mount Vernon, and the white dress and jacket she wore on Tuesday — created by what has become her go-to fashion brand, Louis Vuitton, thus promoting a French name and lessening the amount that could be said about her choices.
Mrs. Trump, however, has already worn a panoply of names both French and American. The day before the Michael Kors suit, for example, she wore a black cape by Givenchy, heels by Christian Louboutin and a black clutch by Dior, all French brands, mixed up with a broad belt from Ralph Lauren, the ur-American name that also made her Jackie Kennedy-esque inauguration suit.
From left, Mrs. Macron, Mr. Macron, President Trump and Mrs. Trump arrive at Mount Vernon.
From left, Mrs. Macron, Mr. Macron, President Trump and Mrs. Trump arrive at Mount Vernon.Credit…Tom Brenner/The New York Times
So far, so cross-border diplomatic. Except the belt also happened to be cinching a black dress from Dolce & Gabbana, an Italian brand Mrs. Trump has long favored. (She wore its lace coat to meet the pope, and a suit by the brand for her official portrait, among other occasions.)
It was as if, while acknowledging the need for visible outreach, she still wanted to stand her own ground. She will mold herself to the demands of her current role, but only to a point.
Indeed, the most discernible through-line in her fashion choices thus far, and what connects them to the image she has been slowly crafting since her husband took office, is their price tag (high), their silhouette (unfussy, vaguely military and with a hint of protective covering) and the fact that whatever messaging may be going on, it seems to have its own surreptitious agenda under the obvious state agenda.
We’ll see if it continues tonight, at the dinner.
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