Melania Trump’s Dictator Chic Tells Us Everything—or Maybe Nothing at All

Rachel Tashjian
·3 mins read

Many political figures have mastered the art of wearing clothes as an insipid kind of pageantry. But not everyone in D.C. feels quite so strongly about fashion diplomacy. Melania Trump is one such figure—we will be debating until the end of history whether her pussy-bow blouse was a rebuke to her husband’s Access Hollywood tape, or whether her “I DON’T REALLY CARE. DO U?” Zara jacket was saying that, indeed, she does not really care. Her outfits don’t answer questions so much as raise them. To quote an infamously obscure Melania tweet of a whale who could be smiling or preparing to chomp down on its prey, “What is she thinking?”

The suit she wore Tuesday night to give a speech during the Republican National Convention was a prime example: a fitted army-green military jacket with sharp, boxy shoulders, and a matching pencil skirt with kicky pleats, from Alexander McQueen’s Resort 2020 collection. The jacket alone retails for about $2,450, though it was recently marked down to $1,469 on the McQueen web shop; it is now sold out. It is always interesting to contrast a designer’s intention with the optics of Melania wearing their work—she tends to embody their messages as a divine accident. Recall that she was a devotee of Raf Simons’s too-brief tenure at Calvin Klein, where the designer was obsessed with twisting Americana dreams into Americana nightmares. This McQueen outfit was equally replete with irony: In a review, Vogue.com called this collection, which was based on drawings of nearly extinct flowers in London’s Kew Gardens, “the perfect armor for any shrinking violet set on blossoming into a tall poppy totally immune to pruning.” On another political figure, the suit might be tailored in tandem with the designer, and meant to telegraph, say, a message of power and unity—a desire to speak for those who feel, indeed, like flowers in danger of extinction.

<div class="caption">Melania Trump at the Republican National Convention in Washington, D.C., August 25, 2020.</div><cite class="credit">Alex Wong / Getty Images</cite>
Melania Trump at the Republican National Convention in Washington, D.C., August 25, 2020.
Alex Wong / Getty Images

But while her speech expressed sympathy for those suffering from the effects of the pandemic—a stark departure from the rest of the RNC, where COVID-19 has gone almost unmentioned—Melania’s suit told a different story. This is a woman in command—but of what, we may never know.

Or maybe it’s just that she likes the look. It’s important to remember that military chic is Melania’s favored metier, from that Zara jacket to her fatigues and pith helmet for her 2018 trip to Africa to her weapon-like stilettos worn with armor-like sheath dresses. This is her version of power dressing, as protective as it is aggressive. She loves costume, but the intention of the costume is never as direct as a costume should be. Instead, the message is obfuscated, as perhaps befits her unsteady journey from rich Upper East Side housewife to reluctant First Lady. Melania is ready to fight—though for her husband’s reelection or for herself, it isn’t clear, and never will be. 

But that’s not really the point. Melania’s recent redesign of the historic Rose Garden, where she delivered her speech, earned her comparisons to Marie Antoinette, but she’s really not such a dispassionate fantasist. She’s something a little more earthbound. Removing the roses and streamlining the space, she made the garden look like what her husband has already made it: a battleground.

Originally Appeared on GQ