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August 9th, 2020

Insight

The art of Melania Trump's green jacket

 Virginia Postrel

By Virginia Postrel Bloomberg View

Published June 25,2018

Melania Trump just gave the world a lesson in the ambiguity of clothing as a language --- even when it contains literal words.


On Thursday, the first lady boarded a plane wearing an olive-green Zara jacket with graffiti-style writing on the back that read "I really don't care do U?" The former fashion model understands the substance of style, and she undoubtedly knew that her back would be particularly visible as she mounted the airplane's steps. So why, on the way to visit a shelter for migrant children separated from their parents at the Texas-Mexico border, would she wear such a thing?


It's just a jacket. Her clothing choice was completely meaningless. That was her spokeswoman's take on it. But, as many people noted, she's not in the habit of wearing cheap fast fashion, so why pick this to wear?


She doesn't give a damn about immigrant children. The un-ironic reading was offered by critics such as CNN's Kirsten Powers, who called her "the Marie Antoinette of this administration." The problem with this theory is that the immigrant first lady, who appears to be a devoted mother, had previously gone out of her way to say she "hates to see children separated from their families."


It's about "fake news." Employing his usual spin, President Donald Trump the jacket as a media critique. It's conceivable that she meant that, unlike her media-obsessed husband, she doesn't care about press coverage. But, if so, why go on a high-profile trip in the midst of a raging controversy wearing a jacket with anything written on it?


Her husband made her wear it. I can't remember where I saw this theory, which exemplifies the "Melania is under his thumb" view. Do you really think Trump checks Zara inventories and then dictates clothing choices to his wife? Seriously?



She doesn't care what you think of her. That might very well be true, but does she need a jacket to get that point across?


It's about the "Do u?" Perhaps the point of the jacket is the final question.


It's about her husband. Melania certainly doesn't seem to feel obligated to fulfill the traditional role of a first lady, which is first and foremost to make her husband look good. Although she shone at the first state dinner, for French President Emmanuel Macron and his wife, and occasionally issues an anti-bullying statement, she's mostly invisible.


And her public statements expressing motherly concerns about the welfare of children often make her husband look bad. Maybe the jacket was an act of rebellion. But what doesn't she care about?


In the end, we simply don't know.


The jacket demonstrates a consistent truth about Melania Trump: She is an enigma onto whom people project their pre-existing beliefs, hopes and fears. In that sense, she is still a professional model.


She looks good in clothes and lets the audience imagine whatever meanings they prefer.

Comment by clicking here.

Virginia Postrel, a Bloomberg View columnist, writes about commerce and culture, innovation, economics, and public policy.


Previously:
12/28/17: These are not dark times 12/12/17: The death of the shoe salesman is long overdue 11/10/17: Rand Paul's seemingly 'trivial' dispute over lawn care in fact goes to deep questions about the nature of a free and pluralistic society
10/24/17: One nation, divisible by what scares us most 10/02/17: Consumer welfare is a proxy for the public good. How Dems are out to destroy it
08/31/17: Instead of spending billions in federal dollars to rebuild the city, why not give the money to residents to rebuild their lives?
08/28/17: Why Jeff Bezos grinds Donald Trump's gears
04/20/17: Pictures that are worth a thousand data points
04/06/17: Pepsi's ad failure underscores identity crisis
03/06/17: Don't let politics invade your closet
01/17/17: What to Wear to Work? Soon, a Tiny Computer
01/09/17: Why Americans long to live in an HGTV home
12/28/16: How Trump can build better airports and roads
12/26/16: Pokemon Go just can't seem to catch a break
12/16/16: Not All Innovation Is Progress, and That's OK 12/01/16: It's not just about the paycheck. Ask workers
10/19/16: Clinton isn't Everywoman; she's a politician
08/29/16: The things you buy make you who you are
05/25/16: Trump would crush winners of the U.S. economy
12/29/15: Too much information, democracy's destabilizer
10/23/15: Hollywood gives its black-geek stock character a promotion

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