Fashion and FLOTUS, Cost and Criticism

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Designer Michael Kors said that although Melania Trump is a client of his brand’s New York outlet, he did not dress the first lady for the presidential joint address to Congress, according to The Huffington Post.

The news site also reported that Trump’s outfit for the event, a matching black skirt and jacket embellished with sequins, which she accessorized with a belt, retails at about $10,000. People also reported on Trump’s outfit, which stood in contrast to the women who wore white to the event as a women’s rights statement, noting that the price and color choice had drawn criticism. People also reported that during last year’s campaign, Hillary Clinton was criticized when she wore a $12,495 coat.

When I saw all of this, I couldn’t help thinking of the Princess Diana fashion exhibition that opened less than two weeks ago. Like presidents’ wives, the princess of Wales was a fashion icon. Almost 20 years after her death, we still talk about her designer dresses, and put them in a collection to preserve them and admire them. And yet, when we discuss Diana or Jacqueline Kennedy as fashion icons, rarely does price come up.

Now, Melania Trump isn’t the first Trump to come under fire for her wardrobe choices. Ivanka Trump has been in the news a couple times for fashion stories unrelated to her clothing line, and the criticisms have included price points. And former FLOTUS Michelle Obama, whose reliably stylish wardrobe included a wide array of designer pieces, got some criticism as well. The NY Daily News reported that Obama paid for her own clothes, instead of using taxpayer money, except when designers donated pieces. How often designers donated wasn’t clarified, so what Obama paid for her wardrobe in total remains unknown.

But the total number is moot in this case: either Obama spent big on clothes, or designers gave her outfits and she didn’t. Melania Trump is in the same boat; either she gets clothes free, or she doesn’t. Considering a number of designers have come out saying that they won’t personally dress her (brand purchases are open to everyone), she’s probably paying.

Either way, the clothing we’re seeing the first families wear isn’t cheap, and somebody is paying for it somewhere along the line. But every time there’s an opportunity, there’s criticism about price and color and cut for what somebody’s wearing. I’d like to point out that the average American wardrobe costs significantly more than many people around the world could afford. So here’s an idea: what if we stopped complaining about the money politicians are “wasting” and took a little out of our own pockets to help people? There are plenty of organizations to help the people we wish the government would help, and we can donate to them in the meantime.

One commenter on a Refinery29 article about Michelle Obama’s wardrobe costs pointed out that no one really questioned the price of Barack Obama’s suits. Well, I do recall hearing people mention that during Barack Obama’s first campaign, after the explosion of criticism for the wardrobe upgrade Sarah Palin underwent. But aside from that backlash, which was mostly only a response to the Palin criticism, it’s true: there’s little questioning of what the president’s wearing. Maybe that’s because everyone is too busy criticizing everything else a president does to worry about fashion, or maybe it’s because suits generally vary less from piece to piece, offering plenty of recycling opportunity.

However, it seems a first lady, or member of the first family, is trapped when it comes to fashion. She’s supposed to exhibit taste and style, but not too much, she should dress conservatively, but not too much, she should spend her own money, but not too much, she should accept gifted fashion instead, but not too much. And “too much” is a daily changeable term, depending on your political affiliation.

Ah, well. Despite all the clamor, in about 20 years, no one will remember the political side of the fashions these first ladies wore, and everyone will admire their wardrobes in museums.

I'm a lover of words in all forms, sweatshirts in all conditions, and God in all circumstances. I particularly enjoy working collaboratively on the written word and wearing microfiber robes (preferably at the same time). Most of the time I don't get enough sleep, but I make a valiant effort.

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