By Anna Meyer
As the First Lady of the United States, Melania Trump has a lot of upcoming tasks at hand. She needs to pick out the White House china, focus on her chosen ambition to put an end to bullying and smile through all of the ceremonial duties that the lucky ladies of presidents get to do. When it comes to serving the country as not only a role model but a fashion model as well, First Ladies have been historically known (*ahem*, Jackie Kennedy and Michelle Obama) to set trends and create awareness for American designers through which designers they choose to wear.
But before Melania even got a chance to announce her inauguration outfit plans, designer Sophie Theallet tweeted a public statement after the election urging her fellow designers to refuse to dress Melania due to her husband’s racist, sexist, xenophobic ways.
Marc Jacobs didn’t even need to see Theallet’s tweet before declaring, “”I have no interest whatsoever in dressing Melania Trump. I didn’t see [Sophie Theallet’s] letter. Personally, I’d rather put my energy into helping out those who will be hurt by [Donald] Trump and his supporters.”
Lots of designers, including Tom Ford, Phillip Lim, and Derek Lim have joined Jacobs and Theallet and have all expressed disinterest in dressing Melania. But others, like Calvin Klein and Dolce & Gabbana, have said that they’d be happy to have a historical figure wearing their clothes. The opinions went viral post-election, and silent or neutral designers were being prodded by journalists and fashion enthusiasts to publicly address their stance.
To dress or not to dress Melania became the hot topic to write, research and inquire about in fashion news, and some designers were not having it.
“In the midst of this heated debate, the question actually seems somewhat irrelevant,” Cynthia Rowley told WWD. “She can simply purchase whatever she wants, so how can we control it? Just because she’s shown wearing a designer does not mean that designer is endorsing her, her husband or any of their beliefs. Checking someone’s ethical beliefs before they’re allowed to purchase, sets up an exclusionary dynamic that feeds into the exact mentality that is preventing us from moving forward in a positive direction.”
In the time since all of the drama began and her husband was sworn in as President, Melania has already worn designs by Hervé Pierre, Reem Acra, and Ralph Lauren.
Although it is easy to dismiss the style and dressing of the First Lady as a frivolous idea, it’s important to remember the tradition and pageantry involved in a presidency, and how the fashion choices made by Melania are no different, just as Vanessa Friedman wrote about for The New York Times.
“They paint a picture of the family that now represents the country, of their ambitions, goals and values, at a moment when the world is watching,” she wrote. “This time, the brush strokes swirled: not with accessibility, but with aspiration, and nationalism. A case of the emperor’s new clothes, or a harbinger of things to come? We’ll have to keep looking to find out.”