Malfunction of the Melania-bot: was the first lady’s Missoni dress an act of rebellion?
You raise a beady-eyed point, Marina. I, too, was taken aback by Melania’s recent choice of a long, loose, knitted Missoni dress for her trip to Camp David, and if you’re asking why then a clue is in the description. It was a beautiful dress, no question, but it didn’t exactly fit in with Melania’s usual glamazon-fembot-princess perfect style. You can imagine Donald Trump looking at it and asking his wife why she was wearing a table cloth, because it dared to hang loosely.
I imagine the president’s reactions to his wife’s clothes are the inverse of my father’s to mine. I’ll walk in wearing a new dress and he’ll ask if I forgot to put on a skirt with my nice new top. Trump, by contrast, likes clothes that scream “I look like something the girlfriend of a villain in a 1980s movie would wear”, and that means solid coloured, body fitted, showing a lot of leg and quite possibly designed by Isaac Mizrahi. They need to be clothes that are visibly expensive, because that, in Trump’s mind, then insinuates the lady wearing them lives with a big man who makes a lot of money and that’s super important, because a man who has lots of money is guaranteed to be extremely smart and have an enormous penis and that’s a scientific fact. Think Jerry Hall’s wardrobe in Tim Burton’s first Batman movie and you pretty much have Trump’s ideal wardrobe for his ladies. (Incidentally, by “ladies” I obviously mean the various wives he has had over the decades and also, just as obviously but a bit more creepily, his eldest daughter.)
Now, the knitted Missoni dress definitely doesn’t fit the above brief. Yes, it cost at least £1,500 but it is a fashion dress, and Trump’s taste is the opposite of fashion, or, at least, fashion as it is now. He loved fashion in the 1980s, when it was all about ostentation and shoulder pads, and the coolest accessory you could wear with your Christian Lacroix gown was its price tag. But all this new-fangled modern tricksy subtle understatement jazz? No siree, Bob. Put it this way, he would NOT be happy if Melania came home with a giant shopping bag from Vetements, ironic fashion meta referencing not really being his scene. As for a knitted dress, well. You can imagine Trump looking at it and making like the great Joan Cusack in Working Girl: “Six thousand dollars? It’s not even leather!” So to me, that Missoni dress was the sartorial version of Melania slapping her husband’s hand away, or refusing to hold his hand, or whatever minuscule acts of rebellion many of us have longed to see from the woman once known as Melanija Knavs.
But, as is often the case with Melania, this act of rebellion was quickly followed by an act of conformity so blithe and lacking in self-awareness it can only be described as Trumpian. A mere two days after Missonigate, Melania strode on into heelgate, when she was photographed flying off to Houston, which seemed to have been washed out into the Gulf of Mexico, in the highest heels ever worn on feet that weren’t actually made out of Barbie plastic. Commentators snorted, but there was something almost admirable in her lack of pretence. I mean, come on, did anyone really think that blow dry was going out into the storm, let alone wading through bacteria-infested water, to help the little people who now help to pay for her lifestyle? Please.
Adorably, she later released a statement in response to the criticism of her shoes: “I want to be able to offer my help and support in the most productive way possible, not through just words but also action.” Hard to know what is the most hilarious part of this statement, the suggestion that Melania ever offers any words, ever, or that she was showing she was ready for “action” in her stilettos. In Melania’s defence, she did change into (pristine white) trainers on the plane ride over but, really, look at the state of this situation: as she was on her way ostensibly to visit people whose lives have been irrevocably destroyed, she used her departure as a fashion moment, posing for photographers in her puffa jacket and stilettos. And then, just to make sure the point was made, she did it again last week. Oh, and by the way, those ready-for-action trainers? They were accessorised with a baseball cap, reading Flotus, matching her husband’s Potus cap, both of which are available to buy on the Trump website. Because nothing says “serving the country” when you use a visit to a disaster zone as an advertising opportunity.
So in short, Marina, perhaps the Melaniabot had a minor malfunction and was swiftly fixed by those technological geniuses, Trump and his Lurch-like sons. Or maybe it was a deliberate teeny tiny act of rebellion on her part only for her to recant quickly and get back on the Trump train. So whatever nascent resistance there was, it is, as yet, remaining very nascent. Sit back down, Trump men. The flash of insurgency has been successfully snuffed out.