The Colors, Cuts and Cost of a Supermodel Wardrobe in the White House: An Analysis of Melania Trump’s First Lady Style

E! News/March 1, 2017

While she’s spent just two months as America’s first lady, Melania Trumps White House wardrobe is already in full force.

As a former supermodel and the wife of one of the wealthiest real estate moguls in the country, the 46-year-old Slovenian-born beauty is no stranger to the art of high-end dressing. However, much like the position itself, shaping a wardrobe worthy of the first lady comes with a set of challenges and opportunity all its own. Simply, the rule book is for her to rewrite.

Much like the viral nature of Oprah Winfrey‘s legendary book club or the Academy Awards red carpet, the international platform provided by 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue can spark waves of influence far beyond a simple outfit of the day.

The clothes a first lady wears not only speaks to the woman she wishes to present herself as, but also—as was proven by Michelle Obama‘s eight years in office—which designers she wants to uplift, which countries she wants to embolden and what kind of legacy she plans to leave behind.

If Melania Trump’s first lady fashion was thought of as a book, her powder blue suit on Inauguration Day was the first sentence of the first chapter.

The cashmere dress and bolero from iconic American label Ralph Lauren appeared to be a nod to former First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy‘s inaugural look, who similarly sported a powder blue jacket, gloves and matching pillbox hat.

Meanwhile, sporting a New York-born designer was silent applause for the state she and her famous husband have called home for years.

That evening, she made one of the biggest sartorial statements of her run as first lady when she stepped out at an inaugural ball donning an off-the-shoulder white gown embellished with a ruffle cascading down her side, the look cinched with a delicate red ribbon.

The dress was the collaborative creation of Trump and Hervé Pierre, a former employee of Oscar de la Renta and Carolina Herrera—both first lady staples. While Pierre is French by birth, he had immigrated to the United States in the 1990s and set up shop in New York. While he served as creative director for Herrera, he finished with the company last year and made his solo fashion debut with this first gown for Trump.

As the New York Times‘ Vanessa Friedman wrote, “Elegant, unexpected dress? Check. Unknown designer elevated to overnight sensation? Check. New York brand? Check. Implicit message about cooperation and embracing the melting pot? Check.”

Still, the first lady has not forsaken the upscale international brands revered in her industry, such as Givenchy, which she sported upon arrival in Palm Beach in early February. From the $2,095 stretch crepe mini with split sleeves to her $595 Christian Louboutin red suede flats, the outfit was as upscale as daywear comes, without being ostentatious. 

While cost seems to hold little say in her choices, tailoring and polish appear to be equally important to her increasingly elegant White House aesthetic. 

Thus far, Melania has also proven she is not averse to color. For the first formal occasion following the Inaugural Ball, she arrived with her husband to the 60th Annual Red Cross Gala in Palm Beach draped in a pink sleeveless gown with a v-neck and center slit designed by Christian Dior, the same label behind her couture wedding dress and worn by the likes of Princess of Monaco Grace Kelly and her purported role model, Jackie Kennedy.

Trump stood tall in stilettos of the same shade and accessorized with green jewel earrings, adding that touch of old Hollywood glamour she has frequently included in her stye repertoire.

However, Trump has also proven she can dress down when the feeling strikes. While attending a Super Bowl party at Trump International Golf Club in West Palm Beach, she wore a simple periwinkle blue sweater and white cigarette pants.

However, the signature Melania glamour was present in her white pumps and matching chain-strap purse.

One trend that has certainly emerged in Trump’s wardrobe is Michael Kors’ label. She wore the American designer publicly for the first time as first lady during her weekend with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzō Abe and his wife, Akie Abe.

The outfit—a tailored black collared button-down shirt tucked into a pair of wide leg belted white pants—was reminiscent of a classic Americana ensemble, one that could be imagined on the late Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy, for example.

While Michelle Obama was known to meet with foreign leaders wearing outfits designed by someone from that country, Trump has already proven she will not let who she’s meeting with dictate which designer she wears. While touring the Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens with Abe in early February, she did not sport a Japanese-American line, but rather, another blossoming favorite—Calvin Klein.

Though her simple white cashmere floor-length dress and matching sweater were rooted in America, Trump did carry a Japanese fan along the walk.

The same method applied when she and the president met with Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife, Sara Netanyahu. It was her first official White House appearance as first lady.

Again, Trump took the tailored approach in a crisp yet unique white suit jacket and skirt combo from Chanel creative director Karl Lagerfeld’s eponymous brand.

While Melania has been known to wear white frequently on the campaign trail, including on election night, the shade is also a major color on Israel’s flag and could have been intended as symbol of welcoming or, as the suffragettes used it, female empowerment.

After a series of simpler looks, Trump opted for bold modern elegance as she sat in the audience of her husband’s first televised address to a joint session of Congress.

With cameras frequently focused on her among the crowd of political attendees, she literally sparkled in a belted black blazer embellished with beaded floral embroidery and paired with a matching pencil skirt.

The ensemble—both professional and glitzy—retails for a combined $9,600 and is the work of Michael Kors, marking the second time in one month Trump reached for his name.

While we wait to observe how her first lady wardrobe develops and expands, we can already deduct that the former cover girl is approaching her White House style with America in mind, sporting iconic designers made famous in the United States. However, that’s not to say that she has forsaken the labels that remain at the top of the fashion industry pyramid—among them Christian Dior and Givenchy.

As Trump works to strike a balance and carve out a niche of her own in White House fashion history, it’s suffice to say the first lady is well on her way.

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