The green Zara hooded rain jacket emblazoned with that message: I really don’t care do u. Somehow, the First Lady of the United States of America, Melania Trump, acquired a fast fashion item sold in 2016. Brazenly, she wore it while boarding Air Force One headed to South Texas. Hours later, upon landing in Maryland at Andrews Air Force Base, she wore it again while stepping off the plane. During the intervening hours, while she visited a detention center for migrant children, her rain jacket lit a national firestorm.
I have said for thirty years that what we wear makes a statement. So, Melania Trump’s decision to wear this jacket with coded message, at a time of humanitarian crisis, was no accident. And her doing so proves my long-held belief that what we wear makes a statement. I can absolutely assure you that this was a completely intentional choice. Reporters who cover the First Lady in Washington D.C. have reported that every wardrobe choice she makes is fully intentional.
Stephanie Grisham, Trump’s communications director, released a statement that, “It’s a jacket. There was no hidden message.” To be honest, I agree with her about this. The words I really don’t care do u written like graffiti on the jacket’s backside couldn’t be more blatant. It seems like the public does not know just who she intended to target with that message. Maybe it doesn’t matter too much, because the optics were bad enough to begin with.
In contrast with the public’s anger over her wearing the jacket on that day of all days, here’s one alternative. I do not believe that the direct targets of her message were the desperate detainees she flew to visit. After all, she did change into a white jacket for her visit to the border detention center. The workers she wanted to thank, and the detainees she went to see, saw her wearing that white jacket.
One of the things that really bugs me about this poor fashion moment is this next point. How could her staff, advisers, and stylist have greenlit the green jacket moment? Someone among that group of people most definitely had a hand in acquiring that clothing item. She only wears high-end designer brands. Among her favorites Dolce & Gabbana and Ralph Lauren, Zara hardly fits into that league of designer fashion. So, this deliberate messaging moment used fashion to make a point, and in my opinion, a terrible miscalculation.
Above all, however, she still wore this jacket. And she wore it on a day during which she met with children forced to live in cages. Melania Trump, wearing this coat makes her seem very disconnected from reality. Or, put another way, the lady from the gilded cage dealt with people living in actual cages. The woman with the most security detail met a group of people forced to live under total surveillance. She could have made a profound statement supporting those in that detention center. Instead, she turned the day into an attention center. For her!
For me, as a personal stylist and as an American, this jacket distraction pales in comparison to the real issues. We have hit new lows in our modern society about caring for our fellow humans. Our government has separated children from their parents at our nation’s southern border. We have lost a baseline sense of civility. These issues matter a whole lot more than this fast fashion jacket with poorly chosen messaging. I’m all for polite civil disobedience, like the points I’m politely raising in this post. But, here’s the thing. The choice of jacket was an act of incivility at the highest level of our government.
I don’t care that Melania Trump receives no pay as first lady. She really didn’t need to turn the occasion inside out by gaslighting the media, and most of the country, too. So, when it comes to this polarizing fashion choice, at the end of the day, I really don’t care. Do you?
What I do care about is this. We need to behave with decorum and use personal style to reflect the very best versions of who we are. And we must demand that of our leaders so that they represent the best and highest ideals of our country. This lack of decorum and civility truly is out of style.