Power Dressing With The Trumps: What The Family Wore On Tour
As the first family tour London, their power dressing codes emerge, say Lisa Armstrong and Charlie Gowans-Eglinton
Talk about divided by a common language. The language of fashion that is.
From Tiffany’s Love Island wardrobe and endearing attachment to her Yankees baseball cap (she’s worn it repeatedly lately, including on a trip to lunch last week at Annabel’s, the fashionable Berkeley Square private members’ club with a gazillion non-doms on its waiting list) to the President’s puzzling obsession with suits that are too big for him, from Ivanka’s new uptake of royal wedding favourite Alessandra Rich, to Donald jnr’s witty take on call-centre-manager-chic, the Trump family speaks in many tongues.
Their sun is Melania, around whom the rest of them spin like a constellation of America’s Got Talent contestants let loose in the grand finale costume department. The problem is, she is — if you loathe all things Trump — inconveniently elegant.
Superficially, the First Lady plays her public fashion choices completely by the book. Taking a flight to London, England on Air Force One? That surely calls for a £2,650 Gucci dress printed with famous London, England landmarks including Big Ben, Tower Bridge and double-decker buses. Landing in London, England? Cue the £650 Burberry silk blouse festooned with trompe l’oeil George Cross medals (as reimagined by creative director Alessandro Michele).
She is such a punctilious stickler for etiquette that she matched the undeniably fabulous white Dior column dress she wore to the State Banquet at Buckingham Palace on Monday evening with long opera gloves. The Duchess of Cornwall did not. Melania’s critics might call this the stagy Dick Van Dyke cor-blimey school of dressing, but it could equally be read as respectful. Also, sometimes literalism pays off, as in the case of the beige Celine trench-coat she wore yesterday. Thank God it rained, or the trolls would have accused her of trotting out yet another British cliché just for the sake of it.
Melania is hardly the first woman in the public eye to approach her cultural sartorial references full on. The Duchess of Cambridge has worn a maple leaf-adorned hat in Canada, a shamrock brooch on St Patrick’s Day and military style jackets to visit regiments, so it’s a bit rich to mock Melania for this. Especially as the locals are often very touched by gestures that are always intended as compliments. But mocked she is.
It’s little wonder she gets frustrated with the focus in the American liberal press on her few (albeit spectacular) sartorial missteps, such as the “I really don’t care, do u?” message scrawled on her infamous Zara coat. Actually that was such a colossally uncharacteristic misstep that it could only have been some kind of deliberate code, as she later admitted to the BBC: “It was for the people and for the Left-wing media who are criticising me.”
Because of her husband’s divisive politics, Melania’s style has been consistently underrated by many commentators, especially in the US. True, her resting expression is disconcertingly static for those who like human faces to move occasionally. Her unashamed preference for super-brand status labels is another contentious feature that infuriates many. High-low is not a skill she has cultivated but then none of her outfits is paid for out of public taxes, it seems. But she does what she does (regal-meets-body-con) better than anyone else on the public stage currently — although not the white cartwheel hat she wore to the Palace on Monday (inevitably dubbed her Eliza Doolittle moment). That was just weird.
How is it possible to be human and never have anything crease on you? It’s as if she has a squad of Bond Girl wardrobe mistresses on permanently call. Another possibility is that she never sits down (I knew a fashion director who used to strap-hang even on long car journeys to avoid crushing her big shirts on the way to VIP events). Alternatively, perhaps she’s as stern offstage as she looks on, and linen simply refuses to conform to type in her presence. The upshot is that she’s probably the most impeccably dressed human on the planet since Jackie Kennedy — and the least admired among fashion critics. One senses that she is the (secret) template for the Duchess of Sussex.
One also observes that Ivanka has been taking a leaf from Meghan’s playbook. At Monday’s state dinner she wore a dress by Carolina Herrera, a favourite label of the Duchess who interviewed its creative director Wes Gordon for The Tig, her now defunct blog. But then Duchess Kate (as the Americans insist on calling her) only started wearing London-based designer Alessandra Rich after seeing Abigail Spencer, one of Duchess Meghan’s friends from Suits, wearing a polka dot Rich dress at Harry and Meghan’s wedding. Kate bought the same style... and ooh look, now Ivanka’s worn £1,700 polka dot Burberry to Downing Street — this is Olympian sartorial passporting. But it’s also rather reassuring to discover the royals and the first family are — subliminally or otherwise — as influenced by royals and first families as millions of the rest of us.
One can only safely assume that Melania — and her styling team — do not hold dominion over her husband’s wardrobe. For his meeting with the Queen last year, his unbuttoned, ill-fitting navy suit and red and navy diagonal-striped tie were more “Come on down to Don’s Auto Emporium! You won’t believe these prices!” than afternoon at Windsor Castle.
Monday’s update — buttoned up, pale blue tie — was a little better, but one step forward, three steps back: his attempt at white-tie for the state banquet at Buckingham Palace has caused you, dear reader, to send letters in your droves (well, there was at least one) drawing our attention to his lack of a pocket square. To a discerning eye, the jacket was also too short, and the cuffs too long: perhaps the White House tailor had a backlog of Melania’s alterations.
As their tour of the capital continues, Melania remains silent, standing one step behind her husband. But with each outfit change, it becomes clearer who wears the trousers — or the more stylish pair, at least.
— The Daily Telegraph