During the short time that Melania Trump has spent at the White House, one that has been plagued by turmoil and scandal, she has redefined the politics of fashion. She laid the foundation with a classic, Camelot-inspired aesthetic on Inauguration Day, working with Ralph Lauren to create a powder blue jacket and coordinating dress that garnered comparisons to Jackie Kennedy’s Inauguration outfit by Oleg Cassini.
In codesigning her Inaugural Ball gown with dresser-in-chief Hervé Pierre, Trump seemed to be following Kennedy’s lead again—she often worked with designer Oleg Cassini on her wardrobe. The partnership between Trump and Pierre has continued, and the French-born, U.S.-based designer has created several custom dresses for the First Lady, including the one she wore to meet Queen Rania of Jordan, and the piece she wore to celebrate Bastille Day with the Macrons in Paris.
However, Jackie Kennedy isn’t the only First Lady who Trump has looked to for inspiration. Trump’s conservative, yet opulent approach to dressing mimics that of Nancy Reagan. Like Reagan, Trump has favored strongly tailored pieces in what is known as “Nancy Red” and she has gravitated towards traditional silhouettes, including the coat-dress (Alice Roi and The Row), militaristic suiting (Altuzarra, Karl Lagerfeld, and Michael Kors), and fit-and-flare (Delpozo, Jil Sander, Mary Katrantzou, Simone Rocha) dresses and sheaths (Dolce & Gabbana, Valentino) all familiar to the “Fancy Nancy” years in the White House.
The First Lady has made her brand loyalties clear as well, finding a fan and friend in Stefano Gabbana, whose fanciful floral confections made headlines during the G20 for their extravagant look and cost. This again has drawn comparisons to Reagan, who was often chided by the press for sporting Dynasty-worthy pieces from Adolfo and Galanos.
Where her predecessor Michelle Obama was a savvy and sophisticated shopper, often incorporating price-conscious pieces from brands such as J.Crew and Converse into her daily wardrobe, Trump has stuck to luxury fashion across the board. Even her off-duty wardrobe is filled with high-end designer brands of the most opulent kind, including a crocodile Hermès Birkin bag. For the move to Washington, D.C., Trump opted for wide-leg culottes from Bally and a Dolce & Gabbana shell; for her first outing to Camp David, a similar vibe was achieved with a striped shirtdress by Gabriela Hearst.
Trump has kept things relatively simple in the shoe department, wearing two of the most famous names in footwear: Christian Louboutin and Manolo Blahnik. Rather unsurprisingly, Trump favors the sexy power of sky-high stilettos, and has only worn flats on a few occasions. When she has come down from her 4-inch heels, it’s been a skimmer by Louboutin or embellished sandals, like the pair by Dolce & Gabbana that she wore at the G20 summit in Belgium.
Indeed, Trump’s fashion choices thus far have underscored the radical shift in politics since her husband took office. This was most evident during Trump’s recent trip to France. Upon arriving in Paris, the First Lady wore a modern interpretation of Dior’s Bar Suit, from the designer’s iconic New Look collection of 1947. Despite the bold cardinal red color, the ensemble harkened back to a retro idea of femininity with a classic nipped-in waist and full skirt. By contrast, Madame Macron was the picture of modernity, greeting the American First Lady in a futuristic little white dress with motocross trimmings by Louis Vuitton—two drastically different takes on French style, two drastically different ways of looking at the world.