Trumped-Up fashion

America first? Not in Melania Trump's closet as first lady favors European designers

America first? Not in Melania's closet as first lady favors Europeans

Melania Trump in Pucci gown
Melania Trump wore a colorful Pucci gown earlier this week when her husband met with the Indian prime minister. Instagram/#melaniatrump
Melania Trump in Dolce & Gabbana jacket
Melania Trump wore a $51,000 beaded Dolce & Gabbana jacket during her husband's first overseas trip. Instagram/DolceGabbana
Boycott Dolce & Gabbana T-shirt
Dolce & Gabbana co-founded Stefano Gabbana mocked critics with this T-shirt that retails for $245. Instagram/DolceGabbana
Melania Trump official photo
Melania Trump wore a Dolce & Gabbana blazer for her official White House portrait. Photo by Regine Mahaux
Melania Trump in Valentino
Melania Trump wore a $4,000 Valentino midi-dress when her husband met with the Chinese premier in Florida. Instagram/theofficialmelaniatrump
Melania Trump in Stella McCartney pansuit
Melania Trump wore a Stella McCartney jumpsuit with a Yves St. Laurent belt during her husband's trip to Saudia Arabia. Instagram/theofficialmelaniatrump
Melania Trump in Pucci gown
Melania Trump in Dolce & Gabbana jacket
Boycott Dolce & Gabbana T-shirt
Melania Trump official photo
Melania Trump in Valentino
Melania Trump in Stella McCartney pansuit

Her husband may urge supporters to "Make America Great Again," but when it comes to fashion, first lady Melania Trump seems more enamored with high-end European designers.

When President Trump welcomed Indian prime minister Narendra Modi to the White House earlier this week, the first lady stood out in a bright yellow Pucci floral print crepe gown cinched at the waist with a wide black belt. The summer-y gown retails for $2,160, and according to the website Net-A-Porter, Pucci designer Massimo Giorgetti was listening to Radiohead while he got the idea for the gown because Pucci's signature bright colors are "music for the eyes."

Another Italian fashion house, Dolce & Gabbana, has been Melania Trump's go-to designer for many important occasions, including her official White House portrait, where she wore a black Dolce & Gabbana blazer, and a visit to Italy, where she showcased several ensembles from the label, including a $51,500 jeweled coat

Critics on social media have slammed designers Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana for outfitting the first lady so frequently. In response, the designers mocked boycott threats by selling $245 T-shirts emblazoned with the words, #BOYCOTT DOLCE & GABBANA.

Other European designers favored by Melania Trump include Dior (she wore a one-shoulder yellow gown from the French fashion house to a dinner with the Australian president in New York), Valentino (she appeared in a $4,019 red crepe midi-dress from the Italian fashion house when her husband met with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Florida), Karl Lagerfeld (she donned a two-piece white cashmere suit from the legendary Chanel designer while in Israel) and Stella McCartney (on a visit to Saudia Arabia she exited the plane in a black jump suit with gold Yves Saint Laurent belt).

Her open embrace of foreign fashion houses is a far cry from earlier first ladies. Arguably the most stylish first lady in history, Jackie Kennedy studied at the Sorbonne in Paris and wore Givenchy, Balenciaga and Chanel until her husband, John F. Kennedy, ran for president. At the time it was too politically incorrect to wear foreign designers, so Jackie hired a dear family friend, Oleg Cassini, as an official designer of her White House wardrobe. He created original designs and Paris copies from magazines, often under Jackie's direction.

And it's quite a contrast from former first lady Michelle Obama, who during her husband's eight years in office, championed relatively unknown U.S. designers. She picked then-little-known Jason Wu to design her inaugural gown in 2009 and returned to him in 2013  and boosted the careers of such designers as Tracy Reese, Brandon Maxwell, Thom Browne, Naeem Khan, and Prabal Gurung. 

Obama also sent J. Crew sales soaring when she wore a cardigan on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno during the 2008 campaign.

Obama was so tied to the American fashion industry that she was heavily criticized when she wore a gown from the British fashion house Alexander McQueen to a state dinner for the premier of China in 2011 instead of a gown from a U.S. designer. But that was one of Obama's few fashion missteps.

Melania Trump's relationship with the American fashion industry is more complex. Many U.S. designers favored Hillary Clinton for president and when Donald Trump won, a number of them said they would not care to dress the current first lady. 

But if Melania been ruffled, she hasn't shown it. As a former fashion model in a world that gravitates to European designer labels, she appears more comfortable with a trans-Atlantic aesthetic, even if her husband isn't.

The few American designers that Trump has favored include Michael Kors — the first lady wore a Kors gingham coat and matching heels in Brussels and a $10,000 black beaded skirt suit by the designer during her husband's State of the Union address — and Ralph Lauren, who designed her powder blue inauguration day outfit and a black sleeveless dress she wore at the International Women's Day Luncheon, along with The Row, Monique Lhuillier, Altuzarra, and J. Brand jeans.

Thus far, she appears to be choosing her wardrobe to at times to send subtle messages. Commentators wondered if the Gucci blouse with a pussy bow that she wore during the second presidential debate, soon after news broke about her husband's vulgar remarks about women in a taped conversation with Billy Bush, was her commentary on the incident. Accompanying her husband on his first overseas trip, she opted for a tailored white Dolce & Gabbana pantsuit to attend the Arab Islamic American Summit instead of wearing the recommended ankle-length skirt.

Her look is impeccable in a way that is favored by the affluent society set that she travels in. She likes solids, not busy patterns (except for the Pucci gown). She favors bright colors or monochromatic shades. A number of outfits tend to have a vaguely militaristic look: tight, gold buttoned, belted. Her fashion sense, like her appearance, is a bit inscrutable but almost always tasteful.

"She has a keen understanding of what works best for her and her lifestyle," Michael Kors told the New York Times, noting she is a longtime client at his New York boutique. Although a Clinton supporter, Kors has managed to stay in Melania's good graces.