The first state dinner hosted by the Trumps was received with great pomp, circumstance, and, per usual, titter over the little details.
Perhaps not surprisingly, it was First Lady Melania Trump’s fashion choices that generated a lot of attention. Her gown for the dinner. The black outfit she wore when she visited Mount Vernon. The white suit in which she greeted the arrival of the French Macrons. And… THE HAT.
Melania’s big white hat was of course the butt of jokes, with comparisons to everyone from Beyonce to Olivia Pope. The Washington Post described it this way:
“That hat, broad-brimmed with a high, blocked crown announced the first lady’s presence as boldly and theatrically as a brigade of trumpeters. It was the bright white hat of a gladiator worn on an overcast day, a kind of glamorous public shield when sunglasses would not do at all. That hat was a force field that staved off folks, the wrong folks, from getting too close.
It was a diva crown. A grand gesture of independence. A church hat. The Lord is my shepherd. Deliver us from evil. Amen.”
But even while the WaPo poked fun at THE HAT, it also went on to make some important observations about Melania’s wardrobe choices. Her white suit was “formal and reserved and rigorously tailored.” Her evening dress “was a nod to both the past and the present, to craft and commerce, and to old-fashioned extravagance.”
Though her clothing was mocked, it reveals a First Lady’s careful awareness and determination to rise to the occasion and be a good representation of the dignity of her office and that of the White House. After poking fun at Mrs. Trump, even The Washington Post appears to recognize this:
“On these official occasions, the first lady sometimes appears to be dressing for a fashion-shoot version of the event — a kind of heightened reality of an already rather surreal circumstance. But there is also the sense that she is stubbornly and confidently dressing up and refusing to relax into today’s accepted decorum.”
Regardless of what one thinks of Trump family politics or character, such an attitude is admirable because it runs contrary to the popular idea that anything goes these days.
Want to wear pajamas out shopping? “That’s great!” says society. “Do what you want.”
Want to throw caution to the wind by skipping the dating process and hooking up instead? “That’s perfectly alright,” culture affirms.
Want to abandon manners and the rules of polite discussion and debate and shout down a speaker? “Go for it, assert your rights!” the masses urge.
In essence, we’ve come to view boundaries and standards – whether it’s in clothes, relationships, or our public interactions – as bad things. Shattering these outdated conventions is the trend.
Melania doesn’t appear to buy that. She embraces polish and decorum and looks like a pro while doing it. And while many mock her for this, I can’t help but wonder if deep down they secretly admire her for it. She has structure and she’s sticking to it, and for that reason, she can confidently play her role no matter what others say.
Would the general public benefit from the same attitude?
Annie Holmquist is editor of Intellectual Takeout, an online magazine and sister publication of Chronicles.