The fashion industry has never looked favorably on the politics of President Donald Trump and his family. During the U.S. election campaign, various websites and leading magazines, including Vogue, openly supported Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, repeatedly criticizing Trump family members in a manner that infuriated them.
It’s hard to blame the industry. How can you not be angry with a politician who vows to return the textile trade to the United States, threatening to impose stiff tariffs on anyone producing overseas while in practice producing clothing that bears his brand in the Far East? The same goes for his daughter Ivanka.
In fact, at some stage, the fashion industry’s attitude toward Trump became so charged, many designers declared that they would not design for the family – particularly Trump’s wife, Melania.
With the exception of American fashion designer Tommy Hilfiger – who declared that he “would be honored” to design clothes for the Trumps, as well as a few others – a sense of a boycott began to form, if not an outright feeling of disdain. It’s hard to forget the Schadenfreude expressed by the media when it turned out that Trump’s wife appeared at his second televised debate wearing a “pussy-bow” Gucci blouse.
The choice of clothing by male and female politicians is always the subject of speculation and deemed to hold great significance. However, it’s likely that the media will really put the clothes chosen by the Trumps for the inauguration under the microscope.
The first media reports made numerous comparisons and historical analogies that suggested a longing for a pre-Trump era: Online articles rushed to write that Melania Trump’s outfit – a light blue cashmere dress designed by Ralph Lauren, with matching cropped cutaway jacket, shoe, gloves and suede clutch – was a clear throwback to the one chosen by Jacqueline Onassis for the inauguration of her husband, John F. Kennedy, in 1961.
This reference also drew a comparison between the two women: one, a symbol of liberalism, the daughter of a patrician American family and an icon of style, sophistication and refinement; the other, an immigrant from Eastern Europe, a former model and, chiefly, the woman who was the first to reject America by declaring recently that she would not be moving to Washington and fulfilling the role of first lady, for several months at least.
This role has instead been assumed by Trump’s eldest daughter, Ivanka. She has just resigned as the manager of the fashion brand bearing her name. Ivanka, 35, has purchased a house in Washington in which she’ll live with husband Jared Kushner, who was just named as his father-in-law’s senior adviser in the White House.
Ivanka came to Friday’s inauguration in a white pantsuit. It wasn’t hard to remember which U.S. politician was most associated with this look, since she came to the inauguration wearing exactly the same outfit. The last time Hillary Clinton caused a stir with this outfit was when she accepted the Democratic Party’s nomination for president last July, explaining at the time that the suffragettes’ official color was white.
Valerie Steele, the director of the Museum at the FIT (Fashion Institute of Technology) in New York, told The Guardian that Clinton using white to reference the suffragette movement was “very important.” Steele said that as soon as people became aware of the significance of that choice, it also emphasized the historic importance of the occasion: the first female candidate for the presidency of the United States.
For many, the celebratory atmosphere of that July evening has long-since dissipated. The fact that Ivanka Trump adopted the look of someone who for many people was until recently a symbol of hope merely emphasizes the large gap between the two women.
In contrast to Clinton, who chose a relatively conservative suit by U.S. designer Ralph Lauren, the first daughter chose a pantsuit by Oscar de la Renta. Its asymmetric front, with a cut down the front, emphasized the daughter’s affinity to the fashion world, revealing her as someone who is not afraid to step outside conventions – when it comes to clothes, at least.
But while Clinton looked calm and confident in her outfit, the woman in the other jumpsuit looked too orange, too made up and too fake – just like her father. In fact, she looked like the harbinger of a new reality-TV age in the White House.