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What’s in a jacket?
A woman who is aware that she is attractive often understands and employs the power of her looks to her advantage, whether it is to ace a job interview, get a bigger discount on a purchase, seduce a man (or woman), or get a green card. She knows that what she wears can heighten her appeal, and she chooses what to wear accordingly.
And she ALWAYS sends a message with her clothes.
Melania Trump is no exception. She’s even chosen not to wear any clothes on occasion, and the message THAT brought her enough notoriety to land her on the pages of lad mags and tabloids, as well as a rich, if unattractive and obnoxious, husband and American citizenship, no less.
Her body-baring activities are behind her now as First Lady, despite the daily obscenities unleashed by her husband and his administration. Nevertheless, she has taken to her new role as the champion of the bullied and reincarnation of Jackie Kennedy, style-wise at least. She very astutely grasps the nuances of her wardrobe choices on several levels, and there is always some kind of code embodied in her clothes, even when her office insists there is none.
Because in her case, a blouse isn’t just a blouse. A gown isn’t just a gown. And a jacket isn’t just a jacket.
As the whole world knows, Melania Trump wore a $39 olive green Zara jacket with the words “I REALLY DON’T CARE, DO U?” scrawled graffiti-style on the back. She was on her way to the US-Mexico border where hundreds of young children were detained after having been wrested from their parents who had entered the US illegally to seek asylum. She seemed to have the good sense to remove the jacket when she entered the detention facility, but put it back on when she flew back to Washington, DC. It must have been freezing inside the government airplane, poor thing.
Call it heartless, tone-deaf, insensitive, callous, unthinking—wearing the jacket at a time like this was all these things and more. It had everyone from pundits to social media commenters obsessing about the message hidden in the brash words and who it was intended for. But, as The New York Times fashion critic Vanessa Friedman pointed out, the message was hardly hidden; it was there for all to see.
“She is well aware that nothing a first lady wears is ‘just’ an anything,” Friedman writes, “especially nothing she wears to a public event in which she remains silent, but knows she will be photographed—as her experience with the high heels to Texas [during last year’s hurricane] would have taught her (and taught her advisers).
“To accept the idea that she just threw the Zara jacket on in practically the same situation because—hey it was close at hand and she was maybe a little bit cool (or something like that) is simply unbelievable.”
I agree that of all the jackets in the world—and was a jacket really necessary for this occasion?—she really didn’t need to wear this particular one. But I personally don’t care what the words really meant, and who the message was intended for, despite her blowhard husband tweeting that it was directed at the media. Because Melania Trump also knows that inasmuch as clothes have the power to seduce or dazzle, they also have the power to distract.
“I REALLY DON’T CARE, DO U?” written on the back of Melania’s jacket, refers to the Fake News Media. Melania has learned how dishonest they are, and she truly no longer cares!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 21, 2018
And that’s what the jacket was, ultimately: a distraction. Rather than a haphazard gesture that could be excused as a situation akin to “I grabbed the first thing I could find in my closet,” it was a deliberate, calculated, and cynical choice designed to distract the media and everyone else from focusing on the real travesty at hand—the continued detention of migrant children separated from their parents, and the Trump administration’s cruel and inhumane policies that prevail despite a vague executive order promising to no longer separate families at the border.
Melania Trump is not stupid—she did become an American citizen on the basis of an Einstein visa she received in 2001, granted to individuals of “extraordinary ability” and “sustained national and international acclaim,” after all, however eyebrow-raising that might be—she knew exactly what she was doing.
And it had the intended effect. Just about everybody, media, and social media users alike, fell for the ruse and spent the better part of the day parsing what the jacket meant. And while her communications director issued a statement saying, “It’s a jacket. There was no hidden message,” and while Melania cultivated her customary enigmatic, if robotic, façade when it comes to explaining her fashion choices, it diverted attention away from the horrific crisis built on lies, racism, and fear-mongering manufactured by her own husband’s administration.
She’s a Trump, after all. She’s media-savvy like the rest of them. She knows that optics are everything. But she may have misjudged this one, like she misjudged the wisdom of wearing Manolos to visit flood victims.
B. Wiser is the author of Making Love in Spanish, a novel published by Anvil Publishing and available in National Book Store and Powerbooks, as well as online. When not assuming her Sasha Fierce alter-ego, she takes on the role of serious journalist and media consultant.
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Disclaimer: The views expressed here are solely those of the author in her private capacity and do not in any way represent the views of Preen.ph, or any other entity of the Inquirer Group of Companies.
Art by Marian Hukom
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