Melania, Did You Forget That You’re First Lady?

I’ve never been someone who believed that a woman had to follow extremely strict rules on how to dress. There are far too many considerations to bind a woman – or a man, for that matter – to conventions often established so long ago, they’re no longer valid. Your sartorial choices might be influenced by your chosen career or industry, your outlook on life and/or perception in the public eye, your body type, comfort level, even your financial situation.

Having said that, I do believe in dressing appropriately for your station and situation. Meaning, I think it is extremely silly for The First Lady of the United States to wear a jacket with “I Really Don’t Care, Do You?” emblazoned on the back while visiting the modern-day equivalent of a children’s refugee camp.

The media has been flooded with stories and images surrounding the families separated in Texas. Some of them have been absolutely heartbreaking. Mothers kissing their crying children through steel fences, the works. Trump’s visit is already questionable, since it comes on the heels of a ton of criticism and negative publicity over her husband’s actions. To wear a jacket bearing that message seems like a careless, rather lack luster middle finger – like, really? I have to go visit them? *rolls eyes* – to the whole issue.

The Huffington Post asked Trump press secretary Stephanie Grisham about the outfit. “Grisham said: “I’d hope you guys would want to cover her visit with children today. It’s a jacket. There was no hidden message. After today’s important visit to Texas, I hope the media isn’t going to choose to focus on her wardrobe.

Here’s the thing about that. This isn’t the same scenario as say, Apple’s senior vice president of retail Angela Ahrendts wearing a $2,895 Burberry coat to speak at a company event. The media glomming onto that was just dumb.

Ahrendts was the CEO of Burberry before she joined Apple. So, you probably won’t have trouble connecting the dots there. Plus, as the senior leader for retail, and a former CEO, it’s entirely appropriate for her to wear a fabulous topper on stage.

The First Lady, on the other hand, was visiting a camp filled with children who’ve been forcibly removed from their parents’ arms. Children who are scared, confused, anxious and alone. That’s where you wear a coat proclaiming that you don’t care? That’s really dumb. It’s also callous, and likely without meaning to, echoes the entire feeling behind the President’s actions in Texas, and if you want to push it, behind many facets of his Presidency in general.

I know that women are too often relegated to ornamental status, especially when they’re married to or otherwise attached to a high-profile man/partner. It is also extremely easy for the public to criticize a woman in the public eye for allegedly putting her fashion foot wrong. Women are held to an unreasonable standard of beauty, and are frequently unfairly treated to a litany of opinions on their bodies and appearance while their non-appearance contributions are completely overlooked.

That’s not a secret. People know it, and they do it anyway. Which is why FLOTUS’ snafu seems even more ridiculous. Public perception and scrutiny on her are already heightened because of her position. Add in the POTUS’ unpopularity with so many in this country and others, I couldn’t help but wonder, why did no one raise a finger and say, “Um. That jacket might not be the best idea.” Or, if they did comment on the jacket’s ill-suitability, why didn’t FLOTUS listen? Either way it leaves you with an overwhelming urge to turn up your nose and shake your head.

The whole thing is so weird and silly, I keep wondering if it’s all not some elaborate charade to misdirect attention from other things we should be paying attention to. I shared my theory with a friend, citing the House Republicans 2019 budget proposal as something the party wouldn’t want others to consider too closely. He said I might be giving folks too much credit for being smart at the art of misdirection.

I don’t know about that. But I do know that when your partner is the leader of the free world, you need to guard your image. You need to be conscious of the implications of every article of clothing, every shoe, hairpin and color you put on your body. Unless, of course you don’t care who you might offend?

A leader’s image is intimately connected to his or her ability to sway a global customer base, damage a brand, engage constituents, easily market a new product or service or any of a dozen other strategies that equal growth and success in today’s image-conscious, visually stimulated marketplace. To be careless of that image is just bad business.

POTUS response was also a head scratcher. He tweeted that his wife’s Zara jacket “refers to the Fake News Media. Melania has learned how dishonest they are, and she truly no longer cares!”

Yeah, okay. Right. I believe you because contextually it makes perfect sense to make a statement about the state of the media while knee deep in an appearance rooted in immigration issues. But then again, POTUS is an undisputed winner in the game of misdirection, isn’t he?

Bottom line, whether you agree or disagree, think it’s fair or horribly unfair, clothing matters. It sends a message, even if it’s the wrong one. If you don’t have common sense, meaning you as a leader or a high-profile person don’t know what to wear when – and you actually care what people think – hire someone who does. Hire more than one person if need be. Otherwise we’ll be forced to think that you really just don’t care.

Now, if that’s the truth, then by all means, send out tweets with *winks* in response to criticism on your gear. Even if it came from a negative place, that kind of honesty would be refreshing. When people know where you, your company or your government stand, they can act accordingly – and if so desired, take their dollars, votes and goodwill elsewhere. *winks*

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